Emily The Criminal (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)

Aubrey Plaza reminds of her versatility as she takes on a woman desperate to make money and avoid being exploited.

Director(s) John Patton Ford
Screenplay By John Patton Ford
Date Released 1/24/2022
Where To Watch Film Festival (Sundance Film Festival)
Genre(s) Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller, Young Adult
Duration 96 Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Cast
Emily Aubrey Plaza
Liz Megalyn Echikunwoke
Youcef Theo Rossi

Film Summary

With a criminal record, no college degree, and $70,000 in art school debt, Emily is struggling. Due to her record, she can’t find something better than the catering job she has, and even when her best friend Liz tries to help, Emily just finds people who want to exploit her for her labor and not pay her for it. Enter Youcef, who does credit card scams and offers Emily the ability to make quick money buying things, with the chance of getting caught.

Well, with what payments Emily can make on her loans all going to interest and no better options, desperate times call for desperate measures, and so she finds herself jumping down the rabbit hole.

Cast & Character Guide

Please Note: This is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.


Far from home, with no real safety net to speak of, Emily’s time out west is hard. Yes, she has a job at a catering company, but the pay is terrible, and it doesn’t even allow her to have her own place. But, upon a co-worker recommended a way to make some quick money, while uncomfortable, Emily takes the opportunity for her choices are extremely limited due to her criminal record.


Liz is Emily’s best friend from back when both lived in New Jersey, who works at an ad agency and is doing quite well for herself. But, because of some hangups she has, it isn’t until she realizes Emily is really not doing well does she even attempt to give Emily a hookup.


The face of the organization which could help Emily with her debt, Youcef is kind, maybe a little too soft-spoken for his partners, but seems to be a decent man. Hence, despite what happens when she works for him, Emily doesn’t mind coming back since he is a better boss than the alternatives out there.

Other Noteworthy Information

  • Reason(s) for Film Rating: Blood, violence, cursing, drinking

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Did Emily and Liz move out west for school or for another reason?



Plaza Tapping Into That Crazy All Of Her Characters Threaten

Aubrey Plaza is known for playing unhinged, awkwardly comical, and just strange characters. Emily might be the most normal one, yet she still taps into the brand that made her famous. On the day-to-day side, Emily is just trying to make a way. Yes, she got into some trouble in her past, but that damming her for life goes beyond unfair. It is actually quite screwed up.

So as you see her cling onto any chances and attempts to find hope, you empathize with Emily and see a different side to Plaza. Mind you, it never goes to the point of you crying while she struggles, but you root for her, invest in her and forgive her when she goes down a less than virtuous path.

Hell, when Plaza has to tap into that psychotic side, you find every excuse in the book to justify her actions, and it often isn’t that difficult. In fact, Plaza as Emily is so mesmerizing that you can imagine Emily The Criminal perhaps pushing Plaza out of her indie darling niche zone and into that next level.

Understanding The Desperation of Millennials

Capitalism, the American way, is screwed up. To get a job, you need a degree. To get a degree, you likely will end up in debt, but the job you needed the degree for will barely pay you enough to lessen your debt and have a life. So, you end up struggling with what you can get, and if you dare to ask for more, you are considered entitled. It’s a lot of gaslighting in the form of you being told to lessen your expectations, despite your experience, and all you were taught were requirements to live well now being a lie.

Which, when watching Emily, helps you get into her head and understand why she decides to do something illegal in order to make money. I mean, for one job Emily does, she makes $200 in an hour. In the United States, assuming your state hasn’t raised the minimum wage, it would take you almost a week to make that much.

So imagine making that in an hour without having to become a sex worker, talk to too many people, be harassed, or any of that. Yes, you are taking a risk, but damn, if desperate enough to take a job that pays you the absolute minimum, why wouldn’t you take the risk of something that pays more with potentially less headache?


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

If this gets the right distributor and the right marketing, this will likely push Aubrey Plaza to the point of being known for far more than April on Parks and Recreation and being one of the queens of independent film. Emily: The Criminal has mainstream appeal and may not be a monstrous, Marvel kind of hit, but definitely the kind that a streaming service will get a lot of traction from or, if released theatrically, will definitely make its money back – if it is properly marketed.

But, outside of commercial appeal, it’s just a good thriller with a well-developed lead character whose actions don’t seem farfetched. If anything, you can almost imagine the possibility of being in the same position Emily was in due to you having no choice if certain things didn’t go right for you.

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Emily (Aubrey Plaza) looking away
Emily The Criminal (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
Who Is This For?
Not only Aubrey Plaza fans, but those who like thrillers which exist in a world where it isn't big cartels, federal agents, and some level of extremes, but everyday situations you could end up in due to a handful of choices.
Plaza Tapping Into That Crazy All Of Her Characters Threaten
Understanding The Desperation of Millennials

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