Five Days at Memorial Review

Films and tv shows about real-life events can be a little difficult to depict because of how they are recorded, as in written down and documented. Sometimes these stories turn out very good and sometimes they don’t. The key is how the creators of the said show and or film are invested in telling this story and being meticulous in their storytelling. The creators of Five Days at Memorial pulled out all the stops to make this show as authentic as possible considering the tragic events that took place at that hospital during this period.

This series takes place during and after the hurricane Katrina disaster. At first, the news media and the employees of the hospitals thought they had made it out of this disaster without a scratch. That was until the levies started breaking and the water from the gulf of Mexico started flowing into the city limits of New Orleans. This caused the doctors and nurses to come up with a plan to try to keep the patients safe and or try to evacuate them if possible. Things didn’t turn out very well after this. 

The conditions of the hospital started to deteriorate. The air conditioning went out and so did the electricity. Due to the electrical grid in the city and surrounding areas going out. People started to get concerned about what was going to happen to the patient during this trying time for everyone involved. Also, there were some questionable characters outside the hospital until authorities came and wanted everyone to get out of the hospital. That was the key to how this tragedy truly unfolded after the hurricane.

The miniseries was developed, written, and directed by John Ridley and Carlton Cuse based on the 2013 book by Sheri Fink of the same name. These creators did a great job bringing this story to life on Apple TV +. All the pain and suffering and bad decision-making that went on during this time are in full effect in this series. Even the other side of the coin. The lawyers who have to investigate this tragedy are brought to life very well and all the investigative tricks they can muster are shown in the show. These creators don’t leave any rock unturned.

While telling this story Ridley and Cuse assemble an amazing cast of actors doctors led by Vera Farmiga as Dr. Anna Pou, Cherry Jones as Susan Mulderick, Robert Pine as Dr. Horace Waltz, and Cornelius Smith Jr as Dr. Bryant King. Some of the nurses are played by Adepero Oduye as Karen Wynn and Julie Ann Emery as Diane Robichaux. There are a couple more actors that play the lawyers in the series and they are Michael Gaston as Author Butch Schafer and Molly E Hager as Virginia Rider. All of these actors do a stellar job bringing this story to life and it shows in their performances. 

From a technical aspect, I couldn’t find any flaws in this show regarding the medical technique used throughout the mini-series. With all the doctors and nurses featured here, there is quite a bit of medical work done by all. This has to be done with perfect execution. Or those who are watching can catch anything that isn’t realistic or authentic. There are a lot of shows about doctors and from my point of view, this series was well depicted from this aspect as well. The creators were very thorough in their job on this story.

Five Days at Memorial depicted some tragic events in the follow-up of Hurricane Katrina. Ridley and Cuse are both very effective filmmakers and creators in their own right. What they made with this miniseries is a story of how a lack of decisions and leadership led to tough times for those involved including the patients. The writing is fantastic and the entire depiction of this story was first rate including the acting and direction. Apple TV + has a winner on its hands with this difficult series to watch. It’s not for the faint of heart at all points. Those that do watch it will be rewarded with a great show about this truly tragic event.

4 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Beast Review

Creature features are a mainstay of the horror genre. Jaws has been the gold standard of all creature features since it premiered in 1974. Since Jaws, there has been the occasional Anaconda or Crawl that has come out and touched on this level of what creature features can be. Beast, unlike The Ghost and the Darkness, doesn’t hit the highs of these other creature features. It’s mildly just another late entry in the doldrums of summer that is August.

Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) is the father of two teen girls, Meredith “Mer” (Iyana Halley) and Nora (Leah Jefferies). Elba’s character is a single father. His wife died, and as a means of recovery, he takes the girls to a game preserve in South Africa run by a family friend, Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley). He takes the family to the bush to see all the wildlife. After some poachers kill a family of lions, one lion survives and comes after anyone he sees, good or bad. The family is now in a fight for survival.

Elba and company do their best to make this material worthwhile and as dramatic as it can be, but from the very beginning, some of the sequences don’t work. Especially those involving people trying to fight a lion. There just wouldn’t be any survival of man versus beast in this scenario. As great of an actor as Elba is, even he couldn’t survive this. And when certain things happen involving violence toward the lion in the film, you just have to shake your head in disbelief. Yes, it’s raw and visceral at points in the movie, but at what cost?

The director Balthasar Kormakur pulls out all the stops in the 93-minute run time of this film. That being said, there were moments when this film felt slow and plodding along. When the action picked up, it was on like Donkey Kong. It just wasn’t always filled with action sequences. There were times when characters were sitting around waiting while other characters were doing something dramatic, and then a time displacement happened, and you were left to ask how that could have happened. 

I think the editing could have been better in these sequences. Still, the overall look of the film was breathtaking. There were some gorgeous scenes of vistas and various creeks and hills littered throughout the film. Every animal you can think of in Africa showed up at one time or another. The CGI on the main lion was pretty damn good, and overall the CGI was very good on the rest of the animals in the film. The technical aspects were serviceable.

Beast isn’t a bad film — it just isn’t on the level of some other creature features, like the much better The Ghost and the Darkness. This film never reached the scare factor I wanted, and even though there was a lot of bloodshed, I never felt these people were in real danger as far as a survival aspect. The ending was pretty predictable, which was the final thing that dragged the film down.

2 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

She-Hulk Attorney at Law Review

Marvel and Disney have spread their wings in many different directions since they established the Disney+ streaming service. Marvel would have shows that fit into their cinematic universe on the streaming service. WandaVisionMoon Knight, and Ms. Marvel are three distinctly different types of properties that Marvel has created in the past. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law might be the most vastly different thing they’ve done yet: a half-hour legal comedy.

Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), the cousin of Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), is driving a car when they inexplicably crash due to a spaceship appearing on the road in front of them. This causes Bruce to bleed profusely, and his blood gets on his cousin, causing her to Hulk out. Absorbing his blood turns her into a copy of her cousin, but she still needs to learn the ropes of what it takes to be a superhero. She just wants to return to her job as a lawyer, but the world has other plans.

Jessica Gao, Kat Corio, and Anu Valia have created a show like none before in the MCU. This show has a feel of legal comedies like Ally McBeal and Murphy Brown. That being said, the two distinguishing factors are that the lead character is a 6-foot 7-inch green Hulk and her tendency to break the fourth wall and talk to the viewers watching the show, similar to how she did in the comic book series. The show is based partly on the John Byrne run from the ’80s.

Tatiana Maslany has won an Emmy award for the myriad of characters she played on the sci-fi show Orphan Black from 2013-2017. She has done a few more roles in Perry Mason and as an evangelist and the girlfriend of a Boston Marathon bombing victim in Stronger. The part of Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk might be the most challenging of her career. She has to do a lot of mocap work and, as mentioned, break the fourth wall. The series mixes many different genres to give her a tough character to play. Like the master actress she is, she takes it all in stride and delivers scene after scene. This might be the best character I’ve seen this far in a Disney+ show.

This series shows the character as down-to-earth and relatable to those similar to her. She is in a world of women who are more career driven and on a path of success as far as being a professional but struggles in the dating world. Trying to find a man on her level isn’t easy for her. Swiping right and left can be a full-time job. This is where this show separates itself from other shows like it. The comedy that comes from the dating game is pretty funny.

Many people had a big issue when the trailers were released for this show: the CGI and the uncanny valley. People were down on the show before they could ever see an episode. I will be honest, the CGI isn’t great, but from what I’ve watched so far, the story distracts me from it after the first few times I saw it. I just ignored it and started being more concerned with the story and direction of the episodes and how they all fit in together. That was my main concern. I don’t think it’s an issue if all the other aspects of the show work, and they do.

After watching four episodes, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a fun show. The breaking of the fourth wall is an added element that is funny when it happens. The writing, direction, and acting, especially by Maslany, are the strong parts of the show. Fans of the character and the MCU should get past the CGI and uncanny valley and enjoy the more personal aspects of the show. Yes, it’s geared to career women and how they navigate through a world of men who want to control everything, but it says a lot about how intelligent and educated women can handle themselves in this world that wants to put them down. This is one of the best shows Marvel/Disney has put out thus far for Disney+. I can’t wait to watch the final five episodes of the series.

4 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

Glorious Review

We’ve all had a day when we feel like giving up and either drinking ourselves into a stupor or ending it because life is too tough to handle. Maybe our wife/girlfriend left us, we got fired from our job, or worse yet, we were having problems with our co-workers and bosses, so we may have quit instead. In Glorious, that’s the basic premise of bringing on of what turns out to be something totally strange and off the wall.

Wes (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood) is a down-on-his-luck guy who, while driving in some undisclosed location, starts to fall asleep behind the wheel. He decided to pull over onto a rest area off the side of the road. While there, he gets drunk and burns his belongings. When he wakes up from one heck of a hangover, he feels the urge to vomit, so he runs into the restroom and sticks his head into a toilet. When he gets up, a voice (J.K. Simmons) from the stall next to him starts talking.

The voice is that of a space oddity that asks him for help with something, but that’s when this film turns really crazy and goes in a wild, horrific sci-fi direction. The voice starts to get philosophical with the man, but all the man wants to do is escape from this nightmare he believes he’s in. The man begins to think about his life and why he ended up in the restroom in a rest area. He wishes he was with his girlfriend/wife instead. The entity in the stall has other plans for him, though.

This film isn’t for the squeamish. It had some very bloody scenes of a man getting killed and torn limb from limb. The blood flowed like a water faucet. The leading man realizes that the space entity in the stall means business. What he can’t figure out is why the entity chose him for this purpose. What did he do to deserve this incredible honor that’s not really an honor, but more like a detriment? He thinks he’s a nobody; why should he be chosen for some almighty job like this? Sometimes you are just in the right place at the wrong time.

The director Rebekah McKendry and co-writers Joshua Hall and David Ian McKendry try to weave a story of existentialism into a bloody horror film, and it works to some extent. The philosophical ideas it tries to discuss make sense, but the overall way they try to tell the story falls short of their lofty expectations. The gory nature of the film takes away from the high and mighty thought-provoking tale.

J.K. Simmons has played a lot of various types of characters in his career. I don’t think he’s ever played one such as this, though. His voice is so distinctive that he was the obvious choice to place a faceless entity hiding out in a bathroom stall. His voice reverberates at times, and when he’s mad or unhappy, he gets very loud. It’s a surprising feeling while watching the film. He definitely commands the screen in these moments. As a viewer, you just have to sit back in awe of him.

Glorious has a concept that, at first glance, doesn’t seem to work. The writers and director are hamstrung with the location of this rest area bathroom. The voice of Simmons and the absurdity of the story make it work in the end. This idea deserves credit even though the whole film as a whole isn’t all that satisfying. Sometimes filmmakers deserve a pat on the back for a good effort, and this one is that, if not anything else.

3 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

Bodies Bodies Bodies Review

There have been plenty of horror films where a group of young people meets up in a single location. This horror trope is so old it’s hardly an original idea for a movie… that is, until now. You have a young couple meeting their friends at a secluded mansion on a mountain during a hurricane. I haven’t seen this before, and that’s the premise of Bodies Bodies Bodies.

Sophie and Dee (Amandla Sternberg and Maria Bakalova) are two young lovers on a winding Mountain Road going to a friend’s house on the top of a mountain. When they get there, they are welcomed and embraced by their friends. The friends include David (Pete Davidson), whose house it is, his girlfriend Emma (Chase Lui Wonders), Alice (Rachel Sennott), her boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace), and Jordan (Myhala Herrold). This group has a lot of history together that starts to come out in the wash when they play a game of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies.

These types of films like to play off of the backstories of the characters involved in the movie. These characters’ backstories are extensive and lead to a lot of drama. Ex-lovers and new short-term lovers are all up in each other’s faces! And people that haven’t been seen in a while because they’ve been jilted show up unannounced. This kind of drama is what the film is anchored on until it turns crazy. When the hurricane comes, all hell breaks loose.

This film leans in on all the horror tropes of the past but has a comedic side that is pretty funny, mainly due to Pete Davidson’s character, who throws out one-liners like they are candy. He is definitely on the lighter side if you want to call it that of the film. It balances both comedy and drama perfectly. Right when there is a tense moment, something funny is said or done to break the tension. That’s the balance I’m talking about. This film threads the line when it needs to be dramatic or funny. The writers, Sarah Delappe and Kristen Rouperian, deserve all the credit for this. They wrote an ingenious script.

The thing I thought that was a little overdone in the film was the jargon that young people say these days, like gaslight and so forth. These phrases were a little overdone in the film; whether scripted or ad-libbed, they took me out of what was a pretty entertaining film. It makes everything feel so overdramatized.

Another problem with the film was that it looked great until the lights ended up going out during the storm. The cinematography wasn’t good during these scenes. I could hardly see what was happening because there wasn’t enough lighting in these scenes. Whether this was a conscious decision by the director Halina Reijn or not, who knows. I just thought that the darker scenes were too dark. The daylight scenes looked great, though. Maybe she wanted to have a contrast in the various scenes to make them look entirely different.

The film relies on a twist at the end that is contingent on the rest of the film being as believable as possible as far as the story, plot, and characters realistic behavior go. That is the part of the film that works involving the twist. The twist brings everything home in the end and makes the film that much more satisfying to me. I can get past some of the other things I mentioned as long as this all comes together. It did.

Bodies Bodies Bodies has a premise and concept that is familiar to a lot of people. Despite that, the story is interesting except for a few modern takes on characters. The cinematography is very dark at night, and it’s hard to see at times, even though characters use cellphone lights to see where they’re going. The actors, mostly established stars, do a good job balancing the line between comedy and drama, which keeps the viewer on their feet throughout the film. This film hinges on a twist that if it didn’t have, the film would be a complete waste of time, but because of the modern take on the film, it works. This is one of the craziest endings you’ll see all year, and I completely bought it hook, line, and sinker.

3 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

Day Shift Review

Vampire movies have come in all shapes and sizes over the decades. Of course, the classic Bela Lugosi Dracula and Nosferatu starring Max Shreck are the standards of this genre. Interview with a VampireBram Stoker’s DraculaThe Lost Boys, and Fright Night brought the genre to a whole new generation of film lovers and horror enthusiasts. The latest vampire film, Day Shift, wouldn’t be considered one of the best in the genre by any stretch of the imagination.

Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) is a pool cleaner on the outside to his daughter and baby momma and he works as a a vampire hunter as his day job. His wife, Jocelyn (Meagan Good), has threatened him with taking their daughter Page (Zion Broadnax) to Florida unless he comes up with a large sum of money in three days. The only way he knows how is to kill vampires, in which he sells their teeth to the highest bidder. 

“Day Shift” is a term where vampire workers work for a Union which assigns jobs and shifts. Day Shift is considered the worst shift because vampires are primarily active at night. In this case, the main character and his handler, Seth (Dave Franco), work during the day to try to kill vampires in broad daylight in sunny California. In the case of the film, there is a vampire who operates in the daytime. Her name is Audrey (Karla Souza), and she’s a realtor. When Foxx’s character inadvertently kills her daughter, he gets on her radar.

This film sets up the rules of the world pretty succinctly. The Union is a very interesting place, and its myriad of rules are numbered. Whereas other vampire films have rules, they don’t have laws of the land, and a governing body like this film does. That’s the fascinating part of this film. Except for these rules and bylaws and so forth get in the way of the film. The Franco character is an annoyance and totally a waste of time as far as the film goes. 

The best part of the film is its action scenes, which start immediately. As I mentioned, the Foxx character kills an old woman (who is not really that old… it’s too much to explain). That scene was pretty cool to start the film with. There are a few more action scenes, one involving a house with vampires coming out of the wazoo everywhere you can think of. This scene was pretty awesome. The vampires looked and moved pretty cool. That’s the best thing I can say about this film, though.

Despite the beginning, the film he rest of the film drags for an entire hour setting up the world, and those annoying rules and some characters I wished hadn’t been introduced. It wasn’t a fun experience following Foxx’s character around for an hour, basically doing nothing. He was takling to various people, including his ex-wife, a pawn shop owner, and the head of the Union. It wasn’t a good look for this guy that is supposed to be a badass. This wasn’t good for the character or the film.

Despite a few cool fight scenes and a car chase, Day Shift was a dull, slow, methodical mess of a film. The lead character wasn’t what is called a redeeming man, even though the film would like to portray him that way. Jamie Foxx is an Oscar winner for portraying Ray Charles in Ray, but he has been demoted to an actor who takes these types of roles where there isn’t anything good about them. Dave Franco is the least talented brother in that family, which shows in this film. The villain is one note, and despite her speaking Spanish, she doesn’t bring anything new or original to the role. This film is a bad example of what this genre can and should be: much better. 

1 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

Secret Headquarters Review

Secret Headquarters is the latest film in an ever-growing gluttony of superhero films. Every major studio, including Paramount, who had the MCU under their umbrella before selling them off to Disney, is trying to get into the superhero game and the streaming wars on top of that. They need material for their service that doesn’t have Star Trek in front of it. The superhero genre could have done without their effort, though, because it’s not that good.

Owen Wilson plays a man who is inadvertently given the powers of a God and uses them to go around saving lives as the planet’s one true savior, the Guard. However, he never tells his son about his little secret. On a father-son weekend, Charlie Kincaid (Walker Scobell, The Adam Project) — the spitting image of Owen Wilson, perfect casting — is left behind when his father gets an urgent message that he has to go to a conference. He says he’ll be right back, though. So in perfect planning, the kid invites his friends over, and they discover pop’s secret lair.

Just like what kids would do, they have fun exploring the lair and trying things out. Some are good experiences with dad’s gadgets, and some they should leave alone. Unbeknownst to them, they set off a tracker and the head of an evil maniacal organization who has been tracking the Guard’s every movement but didn’t know where his lair was until now, the leader of which is played by Michael Peña. They come to get all of the Guard’s secrets and a powerful orb that is the main source of his power.

The kids have to stand up to Peña’s men but aren’t much of a match for them. Wilson wasn’t around much in this film, and his father-son stuff didn’t come until the third act when he had to help rescue his son and his friends from Peña. This story is right out of superhero 101. The father has to help save the day when a relative/family member gets into trouble. The problem is this film is so contrived, and you could see all this story coming from a mile away. 

I can see the attraction of the time for Wilson, but Peña is terrible as the villain. I don’t know why besides a paycheck he would have taken this one-note character with no redeeming qualities. Peña has done some good stuff in the past, namely in superhero films, including the Ant-Man franchise. However, his performance in this might be the worst superhero villain I’ve ever seen. This goes beyond a one-note character. It’s just bad acting, and the script plays into that acting, so it’s a double whammy for Peña. He needs to start looking for better projects than this if he wants his career to keep going.

Wilson gives his everything in this role, but it’s not his fault the script is awful from Christopher T. Yost, Josh Keonigsberg, and Henry Joost. They have an underlying story of this father-son relationship, but it doesn’t blossom into anything. It’s bogged down by all the superhero stuff and CGI visual effects that get in the way of the real story. Add on top of that a comedic stick that Peña and others are embracing. This film should have been more serious, but instead, it went the childish route which turned me off completely.

Secret Headquarters had a good premise that in the right hands — maybe Chris Columbus, for example — could have had a worthwhile father-son story. Instead, it gets sidetracked by a comedy routine by Peña (nobody’s laughing), visual effects spectacle, and a subpar script and direction. Paramount may have done the right thing by dropping this pile of trash on their streaming service. I don’t think many people would have seen it otherwise. This film gives a bad name to the superhero genre.

2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Foinder/EIC disappointment media

Fall Review

Survival films are films where one or more individuals are trapped in a location for many days without means of getting help from anybody. Films like Buried127 Hours, and Cast Away have stood the test of time. You can add another survival film to the list: Fall by director Scott Mann. His other films aren’t very notable, so this one could be the big breakout film that could get him noticed as a filmmaker to keep your eyes on in the future.

Becky (Grace Fulton) is an adventurer who likes to climb mountains with her best friend, Hunter (Virginia Gardner). After a tragedy while climbing, she goes into a shell and starts to drink herself into a stuper every night for months. Even her father (Jeffery Dean Morgan) can’t get through to her. Her best friend returns after being away for a while, and she has a new adventure for them to conquer. She wants them to climb a two-thousand-foot radio tower in the middle of nowhere. Reluctantly she agrees.

Fall is a relatively simple film. Its concept is easy for viewers to get behind: two young women get stranded on top of a two-thousand-foot radio tower without means of escape. Like most of these types of films, the characters have some items at their disposal that help them in their plight to get help which are ways to forward the plot. This film has a couple of cell phones, a rope, and a drone that helps move the story forward. These are useful items in the overall scheme of the film.

In survival films, you must be interested in the trapped characters. The two main characters in this film were engaging to watch because the writers infused their personal relationships into the film’s plot. While stuck two thousand feet up in the air, they were able to get past issues in their past. With such a simple concept, the film needed something to help move the story forward, and the backstory of these two women was what hit the spot for the film. It worked very well in this regard.

The fact that these two characters were stuck so high up allowed the director to get some fantastic shots while they were up so high, so the cinematography looked excellent. Also, the film did something strange that was a little odd to me. While the characters were sleeping, they had nightmares. I didn’t think this fit very well in the film, but considering how simple the story is, the writers probably threw this stuff in to add a little flair to the film. 

Fall is a survival film that doesn’t break new ground, but it had me scared as soon as these women started climbing that two-thousand-foot radio tower. I have a bit of vertigo when I am up high and when I see films with scenes that are very high like this one is. So my vertigo kicks in, and I get scared. I feel like I am up there with the characters, and if I’m not careful, I’ll fall. This film worked perfectly in that regard. I felt the heights, which put me right in the character’s shoes.

Fall worked on several levels for me, even though it didn’t break new ground in this genre. The relationship between the two main characters was very engaging, and I bought into their backstory. My vertigo kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the film. I just couldn’t sit back, and that helped me be invested in the movie. Scott Mann has made a film that will keep viewers engaged from these two points of view. It’s an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter for an hour and a half.

3 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Borlman Foinder/EIC disappointment media

Summering Review

James Ponsoldt has been directing for a while now. He has more than a few films under his belt, including The Circle and The End of the Tour. His most successful film as far as critical and fan acclaim is The Spectacular Now. His latest film, Summering, is a little different from his other films. This time, he’s directing kids, which he’s not done before. Usually, he directs stories about young adults or teens trying to find a place in the world.

This story follows four adolescent teen girls — Dina (Madalen Mills), Mari (Eden Grace Redfield), Lola (Sanai Victoria), and Daisy (Lia Barnett) — as they are enjoying their summer vacation. While doing their usual pastime, exploring the nearby woods surrounding their homes, they come across a dead body. This leads them down a rabbit hole as they try to figure out who this person is while also trying to avoid any suspicion from their parents.

The girls are best friends and are getting ready to enter middle school. They are worried that they won’t be friends anymore. This little adventure might be their last time hanging out with each other. They’re all from different backgrounds, so they may be heading to different schools. Their parents have different motivations for them. They believe these girls have futures and want to control them — all except one of them, that is.

Ponsoldt’s style in this film is very minimalist. It seems he had a smaller budget than usual to work with. Even though he gets a few named actresses as the mothers, he has a relatively unknown cast. That helps with an indie budget. Following four girls around a non-descript city doesn’t cost a lot. The real story is these girls’ relationship with each other. They develop a bond that they don’t want to end.

As far as coming-of-age stories go, this one is a bit simpler and not as confusing or complicated. It’s pretty straightforward storytelling. These girls aren’t that different than most kids their age. They just want to do something with their lives and be somebody. However, it really struggles as a kids’ movie. It just doesn’t have a magical feel to it like other similar films. They keep referencing Bridge to Terabithia, but this film is far from that in many ways.

Summering isn’t anything special in the coming-of-age genre, but it has a charm to it anyway. This wasn’t a terrible film, but it’s not the best work Ponsoldt has done in his career. The budget might have to do with that. The minimalist feel of this film didn’t work in the end. Other filmmakers have done similar things better in the past. Hopefully, Ponsoldt will rebound with a better film next time out.

2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman EIC/

Emily the Criminal Review

There is that time in your life when you feel lost and afraid and don’t know where your life is going. You go to school, drop out because it’s too much for you, and you end up in a dead-end job that doesn’t allow you to live your life the way you want. You aren’t living to the fullest extent of your potential. So you do something that isn’t necessarily legal to make ends meet. That’s the story of Emily the Criminal by director John Patton Ford.

The title character Emily is played by Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes WestParks and Recreation). She is working a day-to-day job delivering food for a catering service until one of her fellow employees tells her how to make some quick and easy cash. She goes to the place, and it turns out to be credit card fraud that they want her to do. She’s so desperate to make some money she accepts the deal even though it’s illegal. She gets involved with Yousef (Theo Rossi), who helps her learn the ropes.

A few movies have dealt with characters who feel they’ve got nothing to lose because they are at the bottom of a barrel. That’s this film in a nutshell. Plaza plays this character perfectly. She shows her desperation at times, making the character more engaging. Sure, what she’s doing is illegal, but it’s out of desperation that she does this. The film even shows her trying to get legitimate work; when that doesn’t work out, she resorts to this criminal activity to survive.

The director doesn’t do anything crazy with the filmmaking style. He keeps it simple. He uses close-up shots to show the reaction of various characters in the film, specifically Plaza’s character, in multiple interviews and such. How she reacts is key to how the film flows after that. Plaza plays this character as any of us would when confronted with some of the negative things that happen to her. Her emotions are the crux of her character.

Look, I know what people might be thinking. You don’t have to resort to criminal activity to get back on your feet — you just have to keep fighting and clawing your way back. Well, that’s not always the answer. Sometimes I relate to her plight — you feel like you are just hitting your head against a wall and getting nowhere. No matter how hard you try, nothing works. I’ve felt that way a lot in my life. Criminals are sometimes driven to that life out of desperation with no other path to go down.

Emily the Criminal premiered at this past year’s Sundance Film Festival to a lukewarm response. I can understand why. The subject matter isn’t the easiest to relate to for most people. On the other hand, I can relate to both sides of this story. This character reminds me of my own life right now. No, I’ve not resorted to criminal activity to make ends meet, but I understand what it means to struggle. Plaza gives an excellent performance as this desperate woman with nowhere to turn, and Ford does an equally adequate job depicting her trials and tribulations. This is a good film chronicling a struggling woman who does whatever it takes to survive. In that sense, it works.

3 1/2

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman/EIC disappointment media