Aubrey Plaza Plays a Reluctant – The Hollywood Reporter
A great, confident debut with a steady build that reflects the growing stakes facing its name, John Patton Ford’s Crime Emily is a good artist who makes the most of the tough side that Aubrey Plaza has shown in even her most comic performances.
While there’s always a presence to contend with, Plaza commands the screen here, playing a character many will relate to – until the moment they realize they’re nowhere near this. Costar Theo Rossi also makes for a powerful film, giving it a notable advantage for a film that straddles the line between working-class realism and the pure horror genre.
A picture of nail-biting crime strongly rooted in debtor class realism.
The Plaza’s Emily is making a living in difficult conditions that are no less pleasant for the most part self-inflicted. She owes $70,000 for an education she never completed, and her prospects for a decent paying job are crippled by an assault charge. The Jersey-born girl isn’t much of a shoplifter, and repels at the first sign that she’s being taken advantage of. It was a miracle that she was employed, even in a shabby “independent contractor” delivery job. It’s amazing that she’s still able to befriend Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke), an art school friend whose advertising job takes her to glamorous places like Portugal.
In return for the kindness, a coworker offered to hook her up: Text this number, he said, and you could make $200 in an hour. Before long, she’s part of a credit card fraud ring, freelancing under the guidance of a good-looking man named Youcef (Rossi). Although he provides information on a need-to-know basis and has some tough-looking characters in his shady office/warehouse, he’s always been upfront about the risks of each job.
Ford shows how threatening an ordinary electronics store can feel when you walk up to the cashier with a $2,000 flat screen and a credit card that can be declined or worse. And that’s the easy part – auditioning for a business where the dollar amount, and the material dangers, add up quickly. Having a calm face doesn’t come easy for Emily, and Plaza experiences countless micro-expressions as her character reassesses interactions rapidly. How do you look trustworthy to people you suspect are criminals? And when both sides know a deal is illegal, how do you not get burned or beaten? Emily has some really hairy encounters, and Plaza isn’t trying to make her look fearless. But her instinct to stand up for herself always kicks in, and the results are encouraging.
Whether it’s through an urge to get ahead or a natural attraction, she starts sleeping with Youcef, who has always won her and our uncomfortable trust. If only you were the only one running this operation. But then, good boys and good girls don’t build a vicious circle.
The movie’s momentum is clearly pushing Emily in one direction, but the world frankly beckons. There, exploitative relationships are legal; but people may be even less invested in her happiness than scammers. Gina Gershon guest-stars as a self-satisfied executive who, to say the least, doesn’t offer to pay $200 for Emily’s first hour of work and more from there. Did the young lady really swallow her pride and pretend to be polished to pursue an unpaid internship? Too bad she doesn’t know how to add her soon-to-be-boss credit card number to her list of soon-to-be victims.
And it’s too bad that the people she’s discrediting can be just as tough as she is. Criminal can’t afford to think about that side of the equation. Here, what you have stolen belongs to you and whoever comes to take it deserves whatever you can do with them. Emily can do a lot of things.