In this excellent thriller, “Emily, criminal in spite of herself”, John Patton Ford’s first feature film, Aubrey Plaza embodies a character whose writing has a particularity.
Emily, criminal in spite of herselfthe nice surprise
Emily, criminal in spite of herself is one of the “small” American films of 2022 to have distinguished itself, the first time at the start of the year when it was presented at the Sundance Festival, then in September at the Deauville American Film Festival, where it won the Audience award. A great reward for screenwriter and director John Patton Ford, who signs his first feature film there. Also, Emily, criminal in spite of herself is an opportunity to see Aubrey Plaza shine in a register other than that of comedy.
In this nervous thriller, Aubrey Plaza embodies a young woman taken by the throat by his student debt. Because she also has an entry on her criminal record, she cannot find a stable and remunerative job, and therefore works as a delivery person in the restaurant business. One day, to do him a favor, a colleague offers him a little scheme, an easy plan to earn 200 dollars in one hour…
Emily, criminal in spite of herself was received very positively by critics, who highlighted its very insightful social painting, offering in a breathless thriller a chronicle of the contemporary problems of American society. Above all, Aubrey Plaza’s performance was praised. A performance all in determination, in energy, in will to get out of it and not to let it go. An incarnation all the more remarkable that at no time the character is only written to attract sympathy.
“She has already had a lot of it”
Emily, criminal in spite of herself shows, without trying to excuse anyone or anything, a system where individuals are crushed and where it is very tempting to engage in small frauds. Far from a basic Manichaeism, John Patton Ford thus wrote a different character because the story begins when Emily has, Alreadylost everything.
In the current writing of a fiction, one generally shows what motivates the character to engage in an adventure. For example, in Taken, it is about the kidnapping of the daughter of Bryan Mills. In Jurassic Park, we see John Hammond convince Dr. Grant and Sattler to come and discover the park. Somehow, the characters are diverted from their trajectoryso that they then do what is necessary to try to find this initial trajectory.
In Emily’s case, there is no such “founding” event on screen. Aubrey Plaza explained to Goldderby as follows:
Emily starts the movie and she’s already had enough. She is already thoroughly, determined, from the first interview scene. In most movies, the characters start at a certain point, then you see them lose everything, and then it’s in the middle of the movie that they find themselves with their backs to the wall and they’ve had enough. In Emily, criminal in spite of herself, she begins with her back to the wall. She’s already had a lot of it.
By eliminating this exposure phase, John Patton Ford avoids Emily, criminal in spite of herself to establish a moral framework, a norm that would precede action, to enter directly into The heart of the matter. And that’s why the character is so disturbing, so endearing without being sympathetic, and in the end so successful.
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Emily, criminal in spite of herself: Aubrey Plaza reveals the particularity of her character