“It’s always appealing for me to play someone that has a lot of layers”: Aubrey Plaza and director John Patton Ford on Emily the Criminal
Aubrey Plaza is one of those singular actresses who stands out in every movie she’s in. The antithesis of the Hollywood norm, she brings an edge and nuanced complexity to each role she takes on and has emerged as a stalwart of the indie scene, from Ingrid Goes West to Black Bear. Her turn in John Patton Ford’s feature debut Emily the Criminal as the titular Emily is no exception.
When we first meet the character, she is far from the seasoned criminal the title suggests, but rather an everywoman millennial, whose past misdemeanours as a teen continue to haunt her present. Living a strange half-life symptomatic of late capitalism in a shared house, crippled by student debt and working gruelling minimum wage jobs in LA to pay it off at snail’s pace, it’s not long before the temptation to turn to real crime comes knocking.
What ensues is seemingly low-key but has all the tension of a taut thriller, as we witness Emily subject herself to riskier and riskier situations yet simultaneously discover further depths to an inner steeliness she didn’t know was there. She might not always make good decisions, but viewers can’t help but empathise and question what they might do in her shoes – a point that might be made ever more relevant as the cost of living squeeze pushes more and more people into precariousness. Electric chemistry with co-star Theo Rossi further propels this neo-noir-infused critique of an economic system that thrives on exploitation.
The Upcoming had a fascinating chat with the filmmaker and Plaza during London Film Festival 2022. We discussed the tense thriller sensibility of the film while it is also grounded in real social issues of financial deprivation and the stigmatisation of ex-criminals, plus the highlights and challenges of the shoot alongside Rossi.
Emily the Criminal is available on demand on 24th October 2022. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for Emily the Criminal here: