Aubrey Plaza stars in “Emily the Criminal,” a movie in the made-for-millennials genre of student debt crime thriller.
Saddled with debt from an unfinished degree, Plaza’s character Emily turns to a credit card fraud scheme and falls into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles. There, she meets enchanting fraudster Youcef, played by Theo Rossi.
For Rossi, crippling debt hits close to home. “I didn’t get out of student debt until I got ‘Sons of Anarchy,’” he told the Knockturnal at a screening from Rooftop Films at New Design High School. He said that if he didn’t land the role in FX’s hit biker gang saga he may never have settled his debts. Being mired in student loans is an all too common predicament, which leads the film’s main character to desperate situations. “When people’s backs are against the wall things might go down,” said Rossi.
First time feature director John Patton Ford, too, found himself in this predicament. “It’s not exactly my story. But I understood it. I feel like I was authorized to tell it. I lived enough of this to tell it with authenticity. I understood the central character in a deep, authentic way,” Ford told the Knockturnal.
In a pre-screening Q&A, Ford said while he wasn’t involved in a credit card racket himself, he did have secondhand contact. He said, “One day I was reading the LA times and there was this giant expose about this FBI bust. And I was like, ‘Oh wow these are the people in my neighborhood. Oh this is on my street. Oh this is the guy that’s next door to me. This is the guy I fight for parking spaces with.’”
Plaza also talked about her student debt during the Q&A. She said she had to work multiple jobs to pay for school. As for the criminal element of making ends meet: “I was around stuff. I’m not going to say what,” she said to a laughing audience.
“Emily the Criminal” is currently in theaters.