Posts Tagged ‘Theo Rossi’

Aubrey Plaza

“EMILY THE CRIMINAL” My rating: B (Theaters)

95 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A seemingly normal young woman finds a new career on the wrong side of the law in “Emily the Criminal,” a low-keyed drama that argues persuasively that when the system is rigged crime actually does pay.

Aubrey Plaza is our titular protagonist, a young woman with a dead-end job hauling catered lunches to high-rise L.A. offices, a huge college loan debt, and an art degree she can’t put to use.

As John Patton Ford’s film begins Emily is undergoing a job interview in which she is caught trying to hide the fact that she has a criminal record. Evidently she once assaulted a boyfriend…whether or not he deserved it is an open question. The fact of her arrest is enough to keep Emily  from being hired by any reputable business.

A catering co-worker suggests something, well, a bit dicey.  And soon Emily finds herself with a dozen or so other economic burnouts being addressed by Youcef (Theo Rossi), who informs them that they are needed as “dummy shoppers.”  

The gig is not dangerous and no one will be physically hurt, Youcef announces in businesslike tones that eerily echo every new-employee orientation session you’ve ever sat through. But it is illegal, he admits.

Basically Emily and her fellow shoppers will be given a credit card — the information is stolen, Yuocef acknowledges — with which to buy a big flat-screen television.  They will bring the electronics to Youcef; he will pay them $200 in cash.

Easy money.

Emily is ready to walk out but there’s something about Youcef — perhaps it’s his honesty in revealing the illegality of the operation — that makes her put her conscience on the back burner.  Her first gig goes smoothly.

Her second, though, quickly turns hairy.  She’s supposed to use a credit card and forged money order to pick up a luxury car, and it’s pretty clear that the foreign types who are doing the selling are a bit shady themselves. Emily barely gets away with the vehicle and a bloody nose.

Theo Rossi

She’s shaken…but also stirred.  One of the marvels of Plaza’s performance is the way she mines her character’s central core of anger and alienation.  If the world won’t give Emily a  break, she’ll make her own.

Emily gets one last chance to go straight with a gig at a hipster ad agency;  during the interview the CEO (Gina Gershon) reveals that it’s a non-paying internship that may — or may not — result in actual employment. It’s one indignity too many for our girl, who storms out more determined than ever to make it any way she can.

Meanwhile her relationship with Youcef segues from student/mentor to hot and heavy.  Youcef (you may remember Rossi as one of the biker regulars on “Sons of Anarchy”) is a sweet fella who takes Emily to meet his Lebanese mama (Sheila Korsi); in fact, Emily will learn that Youcef is way too nice a guy for the illegal business in which he’s involved. 

Ford’s screenplay so matter-of-factly presents Emily’s situation that her bad moral choices make perfect sense; meanwhile he’s slowly turning up the tension as our girl’s escapades become ever more dangerous.

Holding down the whole shebang is Plaza, who plays Emily absolutely straight but with a deep pocket of percolating rage.  There’s not a sign of the actress‘ trademark snark; in fact, aside from some grimly satiric jabs at the 21st century work environment, the film is humorless.

| Robert W. Butler

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Theo Rossi, Michael Harney and Karen Allen

Theo Rossi, Michael Harney and Karen Allen

“BAD HURT” My rating: B

101 minutes | No MPAA rating

More than three decades after winning our hearts in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Karen Allen reveals herself to be an actress of heartbreaking power.

In Mark Kemble’s “Bad Hurt” she plays Elaine Kendall, matriarch of a struggling blue collar household in New York’s Staten Island. It’s a family threatening to spin apart at any moment; only Elaine’s monumental determination keeps it more or less whole.

The Kendalls have been dealt a tough hand.  Their oldest child, Kent (Johnny Whitworth) has returned from Middle Eastern duty a drug-scarfing wreck literally living in the attic. No job, no prospects. Even the V.A. is tired of dealing with him.

Their second child, DeeDee (Iris Gilad) is a four-year-old mind in a 35-year-old body. Though she works assembling cardboard boxes for a company that caters to impaired individuals, she must be constantly watched. Particularly concerning is her relationship with another developmentally developed young man who, she says, “put his fingers in me.”

The third and final Kendall offspring is Todd (Theo Rossi, Juice on TV’s “Sons of Anarchy”), who drives a shortbus for neighborhood retirees and dreams of becoming a police officer, although he has failed the entrance exam numerous times. He may be a borderline loser, but compared to his siblings Todd is a paragon of responsibility.

The strain of dealing with the kids for so many years has driven Elaine’s husband Ed (Michael Harney of “Orange is the New Black”) to drink. He’s currently on the wagon, but a relapse might happen at any time. Meanwhile the Kendalls’ marriage is shaky — Ed has moved out to a makeshift bedroom in the backyard garage.

It’s a tense, frequently explosive yarn, with just about every cast member getting at least one big moment.

And it comes as no surprise to learn that writer/director Kemble (here adapting his stage play with co-writer  Jamieson Stern) has a sibling with developmental problems. The film’s depiction of DeeDee and her infantile but genuine love for her co-worker Willie is tender, sad and often unexpectedly funny. (And you’d best believe “Bad Hurt” needs all the comic relief it can muster.)

This is Kemble’s first feature film, and for the most part it works. Once we accept that one family could face so many obstacles, the film gets to work illustrating the ways in which we humans deal with the weight of so heavy a load.


| Robert W. Butler

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