‘EMILY THE CRIMINAL’ RATED R
It is often said that one should write about what they know, or at least a variant of this construction. For director and screenwriter John Patton Ford, he turned a personal story into the premise for “Emily the Criminal.”
On the surface, “Emily the Criminal” is about a woman who becomes a criminal to pay off her student loans. Although Ford is neither a criminal nor a woman, he graduated from school with ninety thousand dollars in debt.
The housing crisis was still taking its toll and Ford ended up delivering food and struggling to pay the interest each month. Not principal, just interest.
Wanting to become 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.
Emily d’Aubrey Plaza not only carries the burden of student debt, but also a drunk driving and felony assault record. His past indiscretions prove to be a major obstacle in job interviews to advance a career.
The only job available to her is as an independent contractor delivering food to office buildings. It’s not exactly a reliable position with benefits and job security.
During this time, she remains friends with an art school friend, who now works in a prestigious advertising agency. Emily and her friend Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke) seem to occupy two different planets.
After doing a favor for a co-worker, Emily is introduced to the sleazy underworld of the “dummy shopper” where she can earn $200 in an hour buying goods with a stolen credit card and fake ID.
Desperate to earn an income, Emily shows up at a warehouse where the seemingly empathetic middleman Youcef (Theo Rossi) clearly explains the risks and rewards of the criminal enterprise.
Tasting a quick buck, Emily volunteers for a bigger paycheck. Of course, the greater the reward, the greater the even more dangerous risk, like scamming a car dealership with a fraudulent purchase of a luxury vehicle.
As the trust between Emily and Youcef grows, a natural attraction evolves into something more personal. Although Youcef comes across as a nice guy, he works with bad people like his cousin Khalil (Jonathan Avigdori), and nothing good can come of it.
While Emily gets even bolder in the cheating game, she hasn’t quite given up on her desire to put her artistic skills to good use for a white-collar job, even if her criminal past turns out to be a albatross.
A telling scene is when she finally gets an interview at Liz’s company, meeting smug agency boss Alice (Gina Gershon), who offers a six-month unpaid internship like it’s the golden ticket. .
To say the least, the insult of working without compensation leads to the inevitable conclusion that this is a turning point for Emily, realizing that she may be best suited to a life of crime.
Now that she’s even closer to Youcef, will Emily get any bolder? The stakes rise and both could be further threatened when things go wrong with Khalil and his cronies.
“Emily the Criminal” is an intense and engrossing crime thriller, and Aubrey Plaza’s fearless Emily is something to behold. His character isn’t admirable but the performance is fierce and compelling.
“A LEAGUE APART” ON AMAZON PRIME
Some familiar with the beloved 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 left to fight in World War II.
One of the most shocking aspects of Amazon Prime’s eight-episode series (which this reviewer didn’t devour in its entirety) is the contemporary lingo that’s out of step with the times.
This “A League of Their Own” series is also less invested in baseball and more in drama that seems driven by an agenda revealing the challenges of women competing in what was then an all-male sport.
Loosely based on the character of Geena Davis, Carson Shaw, wife of Abbi Jacobson, whose husband is in the military, leaves her small town of Idaho for the big city of Chicago for a tryout with the Rockford Peaches.
As catcher and eventual interim coach, Carson faces guilt as she finds herself drawn to fellow star player, wisecracking Greta Gill (D’Arcy Carden).
A side story develops with Maxine Chapman (Chante Adams), a talented black pitcher, who is unable to overcome the overt racism that prevents her from joining the Peaches, a team with a Mexican pitcher (Roberta Colindrez) posing as the Spanish striker.
Carson isn’t the only person struggling with guilt and same-sex attraction. Maxine’s hidden desire would surely cause a rift in her close-knit circle of family and friends.
The most compelling drama, or at least as it appears halfway through the series, is with Maxine’s family, where willful matriarch Toni (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) is in a league of her own.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.