Spoilers have priors too.

This was hard to watch for all the right reasons. Sometimes I can’t help but feel so personally invested in a character’s fate that I brace myself whenever the consequences creep up on them. Aubrey Plaza might be mostly known for her comedic chops but she’s in fine dramatic form here. We’ll get into the details, but suffice to say I will recommend you go see this film first and read this review right after.

(Credit: Roadside Attractions)

Emily The Criminal (2022) is written and directed by John Patton Ford. Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is trying to get a job to pay her student debt and pay her share of the rent. Unfortunately she has a blemish in her record, a convicted felony that gets brought up everytime she tries to get a better job. Instead she must survive on a lousy temp jobs with no benefits. Yes, Emily has made poor decisions in her past but every time it looks like she’s about to rise above them she gets brought down again.

Aubrey Plaza embodies her character as constantly struggling and keeping her temper in check, but you can almost feel the weight of the other people judging her whenever she thinks she can aspire to a better life. After doing a favor for someone, she gets hooked up with a number where she can earn quick cash as long as she doesn’t look at the details. A credit card scam in which she uses a card to buy a TV and walks out. The people running the scam don’t sugar-coat it, this is illegal. Emily’s nervous, she’s jittery but the promise of quick, much needed cash, is too strong.

And her story progresses, I find it impossible not to be engaged and concerned. This is not an action film, you know the main character is on a steady descent towards losing her moral compass. You can’t help but empathize with what she needs to do to get by. You want her to find a way out, but she’s slipping and running out of all chances. The way that Aubrey’s physical performance shows the turmoil bubbling underneath Emily’s skin is brilliant. The deeper things get, the more Emily becomes entangled in this world and the less she’s likely to break out.

Strongly recommended. This is not a drama, this is a realistic crime thriller with life consequences. This is the kind of film and standout performance that should get award nominations but they don’t. The film is worth just for Aubrey Plaza’s performance alone. You don’t feel safe and dread the implications that are piling up for her character around the corner. Definitely worth a close watch.

That will do for now.