“EMILY THE CRIMINAL” WITH R.R
It is often said that one should write about what one knows, or at least a variation of that construct. He turned a personal story into a premise for Emily the Criminal for director and screenwriter John Patton Ford.
On the surface, Emily the Criminal is about a woman who turns to crime to pay off her student loans. While Ford is neither a criminal nor a woman, he graduated from school with $90,000 in debt.
The housing crisis was still doing damage, and Ford ended up delivering groceries and struggling to pay the interest each month. Not the principal, just the interest.
Wanting to be a filmmaker seemed like a daunting task, and personal experience sparked the idea of making a film about a millennial who reaches breaking point and decides to make her own rules.
Aubrey Plaza’s Emily not only carries the burden of college debt, but also a record of drunk driving and assault. Her previous indiscretions turn out to be a major obstacle to career advancement in job interviews.
The only job open to her is as an independent contractor delivering groceries to office buildings. Not exactly a reliable job with benefits and job security.
In the meantime, she remains friends with a fellow art school student who now works at a prestigious advertising agency. Emily and her friend Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke) seem to inhabit two different planets.
After doing a favor for a co-worker, Emily is introduced to the seedy underworld of the “dummy shopper,” where she can make $200 an hour by purchasing goods using a stolen credit card and fake ID.
Desperate for revenue, Emily turns up at a warehouse where seemingly empathetic middleman Youcef (Theo Rossi) is outspoken about the risks and rewards of the criminal enterprise.
Emily gets a taste for a quick buck and volunteers for a bigger payday. Of course, the higher the reward, the more dangerous the risk of, for example, cheating a car dealer with a fraudulent purchase of a luxury vehicle.
As Emily and Youcef’s trust grows, a natural attraction evolves into something more personal. Although Youcef comes across as a nice guy, he works with some bad guys like his cousin Khalil (Jonathan Avigdori) and nothing good can come of it.
As Emily grows braver in the cheating game, she hasn’t quite given up her desire to use her artistic skills for a clerk job, even if her criminal past proves to be an albatross.
A revealing scene is when she finally gets an interview at Liz’s company and meets up with smug agency manager Alice (Gina Gershon), who offers her an unpaid six-month internship as if it were the golden ticket.
To say the least, the insult of struggling without compensation leads to the inevitable conclusion that this is a watershed moment for Emily as she realizes that she may be best suited to a life of crime.
Now that she’s even more attracted to Youcef, is Emily becoming more ruthless? The stakes are getting higher and both could be put in greater jeopardy if things go sideways with Khalil and his cohorts.
Emily the Criminal is an intense, compelling crime thriller, and Aubrey Plaza’s fearless Emily is a must-see. Her character isn’t admirable, but the performance is wild and compelling.
“A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN” ON AMAZON PRIME
Some familiar with the popular 1992 film A League of Their Own may be surprised by the modern take on a story of women in baseball replacing the men who went into battle during World War II are.
One of the most irritating aspects of Amazon Prime’s eight-episode series (which this reviewer hasn’t fully devoured) is the contemporary jargon that’s inconsistent with the era.
This A League of Their Own sequel series is also less invested in baseball than in the drama, which appears to be driven by an agenda that reveals the challenges faced by women competing in what was then an all-male sport.
Loosely adapted from the character of Geena Davis, Abbi Jacobson’s married Carson Shaw, whose husband is in the Army, leaves her small town in Idaho for the big city of Chicago to play with the Rockford Peaches.
As catcher and eventually interim coach, Carson deals with guilt when she finds herself attracted to another star player, the witty Greta Gill (D’Arcy Carden).
A parallel story unfolds with Maxine Chapman (Chante Adams), a talented black pitcher who can’t overcome the overt racism that keeps her from joining the Peaches, a team that features a Mexican pitcher (Roberta Colindrez) playing as a Spanish forward was issued.
Carson isn’t the only person wrestling with guilt and same-sex attraction. Maxine’s secret desires would surely cause a rift in her close family and circle of friends.
The most compelling drama, or at least as it appears midway through the series, is with Maxine’s family, where strong-willed matriarch Toni (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) is in a league of her own.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.