The problem with Hollywood’s recent pandemic of “unlikable female protagonists” isn’t the fact that they’re portraying an unlikable woman on screen. It’s the fact that Hollywood is portraying women on screen that they want to be liked but have personalities that can’t be sympathized with.
The film ‘Emily the Criminal’ is a movie that tries to connect with the modern Progressive origin story of someone living in a big city who is five to six figures in debt. Aubrey Plaza is known for her comedic roles but has gone the drama route with her recent films including the latest movie from Roadside Attractions.
Plaza plays the character of Emily, a woman in her late 30s living in the modern utopia of Los Angeles as she struggles to pay off her student loans but can’t get a good-paying job due to her felony convictions.
Emily is a hot-headed woman who is prone to emotional outbursts which haven’t helped her chances in the workforce. One Day, Emily gets a job lead as a “dummy shopper” that promises to make her $200 in one hour.
Turns out the job is being a part of a credit card fraud ring that makes purchases using fake cards and then sells the merchandise for a profit. Youcef (Theo Rossi) the organizer of the crime ring has an eye for Emily as she falls in love with my fast money to get out of debt. However, things get more dangerous as Emily goes deeper into bigger jobs and Emily bites off more than she can chew.
The film tries to make Emily a relatable character to the audience by assuming most people watching this are also struggling with thousands of dollars in the debt working a dead-end job that they don’t like. The film makes a connection with a viewer by putting a caricature of themselves as the lead of the film.
The problem here is that there’s nothing likable about Emily as a protagonist. Personality aside, Emily is your typical 30-something person who lives life without taking any responsibility for their situation.
In the opening of the film, Emily is at a job interview where the employer asks if she has a criminal history. Emily lies about the extent of her record and when she gets called out on it, she lashes out at the employer as if somehow he is the person in the wrong.
Emily fails as a character right out of the gate and if this film was any more realistic, she would have gotten killed very early in the runtime. The film wants to live in the world of the criminal underbelly but doesn’t even have the balls to commit to the underworld of Los Angeles crime.
‘Emily the Criminal’ comes off as a disingenuine movie from start to finish. Some people are going to view this movie as some kind of a greater social commentary on capitalism when in reality, this is a story about a woman who is in the exact position she deserves to be in life thanks to the choices that she has made.
There’s no lesson to be learned here because our protagonist gets away with it. A person who has suffered due to the poor decision-making of her life has learned nothing by the time the credits begin the role.
‘Emily the Criminal’ is a ridiculous movie giving millennials the illusion that crime is the way to game the system and the only thing they need to rob a criminal enterprise is a box cutter, a taser, and a bitchy attitude.