“Emily the Criminal”
Metacritic (8/10), Rotten Tomatoes (****)
Given the level of graft and corruption in contemporary society, it often seems like the only way to get ahead is to cheat, even if it means breaking the law. The age-old wisdom of working hard, playing by the rules and being fair seems “quaint” to many, especially among many of today’s young adults, who feel as though they’ve been saddled with insurmountable debt from dubious lending practices like those associated with burdening student loans. But what is one to do when the old rules simply don’t work and a new solution is needed to break out of financial bondage? Those are the questions raised in this taut new thriller about a young woman torn between following her principles and being practical in the face of staggering odds working against her. Writer-director John Patton Ford’s debut feature addresses these issues head-on in a straight-up drama about what desperation can prompt us to do when we feel we’re running out of conventional options. The film provides a superb showcase for actress Aubrey Plaza as the beleaguered protagonist, who finds it surprisingly easy to turn to what many older viewers might see as a series of questionable and unethical choices, despite the fact that she often sees no other way out of her circumstances – and the troubling path that they set her on for the future. Some may see some of the narrative’s developments as a little far-fetched, but one simultaneously can’t help but wonder what would we do if we found ourselves in the title character’s shoes? This surprisingly thoughtful offering dressed up in a somewhat conventional crime drama makes for an intriguing fusion of genres that will have you on the edge of your seat for its economical and always-engaging 1:37:00 runtime. Don’t sell this one short; it may not be widely known, but it’s well worth a look.