Emily the Criminal — A Review

Surprisingly Good

Jan Blount

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Aubrey Plaza as Emily

I basically like everything Aubrey Plaza does, so I wasn’t surprised to be pleased with what she does as the titular character in Emily the Criminal. She has this ‘crazy girl you can’t trust but still want to be friends with’ appeal. I enjoy watching when she’s interviewed on talk shows. You just don’t know what she’s going to come up with, but it’s always pretty darn charming. If anything was a surprise, it’s that she was starring in a dramatic role in a dramatic picture to begin with. I’d only ever seen her in romcoms and such.

And, not just a drama, a crime-drama-thriller . Emily is a struggling twenty-something; eking out a meager living in Los Angeles with a catering service; taking any interview and filling out any application that she comes across. Until a co-worker gives her a tip to call a mysterious number if she wants to “make $200 in an hour”. She calls the number and makes the $200. There is an offer made to make even more money, if she wants to take a chance. And it’s a greased slide from there on out.

There are elements of other kinds of movies here: bits of the woman action hero; hints of gritty inner city shoot-em ups; even some titillating lovers/partners in crime action. But this movie stands out as unique. If you’re like me, you won’t expect some of the twists, or the ways Emily reacts to them. Which makes it a fast 93 minutes. There’s not much time wasted. Every scene and every character serves the purpose of moving things along nicely.

The desperate situation Emily finds herself in is strangely relatable. You don’t know how she’s going to get out of it, but you can’t help but cheer for her. Maybe it’s the way that she’s so damn determined to get somewhere that it rubs off on the viewer.

The resolution of the movie might not satisfy everyone, but I was pleased with that, too. It made some questions come to my mind, like whether I could enjoy an achievement if it wasn’t gotten totally legally, or could I enjoy getting what I want if I had no one to share it with. Still it was a satisfying and reasonable way to tie up the loose ends of the movie.

This is an hour and a half of movie watching that’s well worth the price of admission.

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Jan Blount

Educated, but averse to sophistry. I write about what I know, what angers me and what moves me. I ponder about race, politics, and whether true love exists.