I was never a “Parks and Recreation” viewer, but I’ve liked Aubrey Plaza in several big screen projects. Her low-key, deadpan style was perfect for movies like “Safety Not Guaranteed” (which is on my Movies You Might Not Know list), “The To Do List,” and “Bestsellers” (opposite Peter O’Toole).
In “Emily Is A Criminal,” Plaza plays the thirty-something title character, a young woman desperate to pay down tens of thousands in student loans but unable to find work because she has a felony conviction on her record. With few income options, she reluctantly becomes involved in a credit card ripoff ring and finds she not only likes the scam, she’s good at it, too.
To her surprise, Emily’s little endeavor turns into more of an adventure than she expects — as does her relationship with one of the guys running the scam, Youcef (Theo Rossi), who dreams of owning rental property. I’m going to stop before I reveal any more details, because this is too good a movie to have even one other plot point spoiled.
In his first feature, writer/director John Patton Ford has sculpted a clever story that’s unobscured by fancy camera work. Instead, he lets Plaza and the rest of the cast take their time in each scene, and doesn’t over-edit the results.
Plaza has been known for light comedy, but proves in “Emily Is A Criminal” that she’s just as good at drama. She plays Emily with a mixture of anxiety and resolve amid others desperate enough to break the law to make money. There’s also an interesting message about the exploitation of workers in the corporate sector, the gig economy, and even the world of wrongdoing.
I give “Emily The Criminal” an 8.5 out of 10. Now playing in theaters.