Emily the Criminal movie review (2022)

Emily is a specific individual, but she is also representative of the particular struggles of her generation. She attended an expensive art school, graduated with a degree in portrait art and a mountain of debt. There is no way on earth she can ever pay it back, not the interest or the principal. Emily has a record. There was a DUI in college. An arrest was also made for assault. That means she can’t pass a background check, a roadblock when applying for “real” jobs. She works for a GrubHub type company as a contractor (they can cut her hours without notice and she has no recourse). She lugs lasagna into shiny corporate offices where women in tailored suits walk around waiting for her to finish. She is offered a promising internship, but the internship is of course unpaid. She cannot go without pay for five months. Who can? Emily is trapped. That is, until a colleague introduces her to the world of credit card fraud.

A group of people gather in a warehouse and are led through the process by Youcef (Theo Rossi), who says in advance that what they want to do is illegal (but safe) and if anyone doesn’t feel comfortable, the it’s okay to get up and go. His manner is quiet and friendly and he inspires confidence. Emily is given a fake license, a fake credit card and instructions on what to buy for resale on the black market. Later, when Emily gets up to speed, Youcef gives her a taser for protection and a burner phone. He shows her how to make the credit cards. She “settles” for this. The money is addictive. The thought of getting out of debt is an overwhelming incentive. Emily’s art school friend Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke) keeps dangling the possibility of recommending Emily for a job as a graphic designer at her advertising agency, highlighting the huge gulf between the two friends’ relationship. (Liz, being sent to Portugal on business, complains to Emily, “It’s only for 11 days.” Only!)

As the jobs get riskier and riskier, Emily’s true nature is activated, recalling the opening scene where Emily turns a failed job interview on its head. She never plays defense. She goes on the attack as quickly as possible. She thinks about her legs. When she decides to fight back, she can be quite terrifying. She likes Youcef, an immigrant from Lebanon with dreams, things he saves up for. Youcef likes her too. The credit card fraud aspect of “Emily the Criminal” is fascinating, a deep dive into the world of “dummy shopping,” but what ignites the film overall is Aubrey Plaza’s unpredictable and often thrilling performance.

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