“Emily the Criminal” is one of 2022’s more unique and engrossing movies, thanks to the one-two punch of an interesting, largely successful story and convincing performance from star Aubrey Plaza.
Emily is single, barely surviving life in L.A. as a delivery person for a catering company. She has $70,000 in student loan debt… and a criminal record (aggravated assault), which is making finding a “real” job quite difficult. On the verge of moving back in with her family in N.J. she gets an opportunity to make some quick cash. It involves breaking the law, but it won’t attract attention of the authorities. So she goes for it.
That one score leads Emily deep into the world of credit card fraud. Youcef (Theo Rossi), one of the heads of the operation, teaches Emily all the tricks of the trade, while also attempting to steal her heart.
This set-up is intriguing enough to make you want to see how far Emily will go to get what she wants. As her confidence grows, so does the film’s sense of comfortable uneasiness. Writer/director John Patton Ford nicely balances laid-back, comfortable moments with legitimately intense ones.
But it’s Plaza’s work that allows everything else to fall into place. She provides Emily with both depth and an aura of unpredictability. We get a sense early on that she could explode if pushed too hard (she’s from Jersey, for god’s sake). And even though what she’s doing is highly illegal, you can’t help but root for her.
There are about a half dozen noticeable story conveniences that briefly take you out of the moment, and the ending is a bit clunky. But, otherwise, “Emily the Criminal” is a legit late summer dramatic thriller.
If you’re ordering your tickets online, protect that credit card number.
LCJ GRADE: B
Running Time: 93 min.