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Emily the Criminal–The Making of a Criminal Mind

In this amoral thriller, anti-hero Emily (Aubrey Plaza of “White Lotus”, season 2 and “Parks and Recreations”) is interviewing for a job in a medical office.  Problem is she has a felony on her record for aggravated assault.  This fact will be crucial for the ongoing plot in Emily the Criminal.

Angry and desperate with $70 thousand dollars in student loan debt, Emily is in a physically exhausting, mind-numbing job delivering catered lunches to businesses.   Both highly motivated as an artist wanting to have a career and handicapped by her criminal record, Emily sees no way out except an offer first suggested by a coworker: a low-level crime ring dealing in credit card fraud.

The brother to the gang kingpin, Yusuf (Theo Rossi), is empathetic and identifies with Emily’s predicament.   Although the trainer of the downtrodden yearning to be free of their dismal lives, Yusuf has a softer and more vulnerable, even trusting side to him.  Moreover, Emily can be hard-nosed and unexpectedly talented in scoring fraudulent high-end purchases.  But Yusuf’s brother is doubtful and perhaps jealous of Yusuf and Emily’s relationship.  Emily the Criminal ratchets up the tension when Emily suggests Yusuf can become independent of his brother and she will be his partner.  Both are dreamers down on their luck with impossibly difficult circumstances to overcome, but they promise to help each other.

Soon we are witnessing “Dexter” or “Breaking Bad” on steroids.  Does crime pay…sometimes?  And what other options does Emily have? It is hinted that Emily may have served a prison sentence for defending herself against an abusive boyfriend, perhaps a rapist.  Now defensive when seeking an interview–even in the art business she covets, Emily turns down a competitive internship her friend negotiated for her because she will have no salary for six months.  Who but the entitled can accept such pre-conditions to gain a desired position promising a future upwardly-mobile career?

Aubrey Plaza and Theo Rossi are perfectly cast for their roles and the chemistry between them is palpable.  Plaza’s deadpan face cries out both anger and indignation on the one hand, and a dreamer wanting a second chance on the other.  She is impossible to ignore in this spellbinding cliffhanger of a narrative.  Bookended in a brilliant way with a beginning scene of training the criminal mind and the closing, Emily the Criminal is not for everyone.  This film is dark and morally vertiginous. For those who want to see characters who turn to crime in a way that makes sense given the limitations their environment has given them, Emily the Criminal is for you! 

Availability:  Netflix

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