Aubrey Plaza Says ‘Emily the Criminal’ Was Inspired by the Safdie Brothers’ ‘Good Time’

The John Patton Ford film was also heavily influenced by the films of Jacques Audiard.
"Good Time"
"Good Time"
A24/Courtesy Everett Collection

If the independent film world had to crown a queen, there’s a good chance it would select Aubrey Plaza. The “Parks and Recreation” alum has been a fixture at Sundance for years, consistently starring in cool films and helping new directors gain crucial opportunities in the process. Her latest indie is “Emily the Criminal,” a heist movie she produced in addition to playing the eponymous criminal. In a new interview with L’Officiel, Plaza opened up about some of the films that influenced her and “Emily the Criminal” director John Patton Ford while making the film.

“John is a really big fan of Jacques Audiard,” Plaza said. “There’s a movie called ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’ and that movie was a big reference for him. A lot of foreign films. We talked a lot about ‘Head-On,’ which is Fatih Akın. And also the Safdie Brothers’ ‘Good Time.’ That movie was a reference because there’s something about the momentum of those movies that they just barrel forward. You don’t stop. You start and you’re just off.”

Films like “Good Time” influenced “Emily the Criminal” from a structural perspective, with the creative team opting to abandon the leisurely pace employed by many other indies in favor of moving the plot forward at a breakneck speed.

“It’s already we’re at an 11,” she said. “It’s not normal movies where it’s a normal day and then you get fired, and then you get broken up with, and now you got to figure out. It’s like, ‘No, she’s already had enough at the beginning.’ Jacques Audiard was a big one, even in terms of how we shot it. More visually that movie was referenced, but energetically, I think the Safdie Brothers were a really good comp.”

She added: “Also just in terms of the character, because just to use ‘Good Time’ as an example, I don’t want to totally compare it to that movie, but it’s with male protagonists a lot of times, there’s no apologies about the moral questionability of what these guys are doing and you’re along with them for the ride.”

Plaza realized there aren’t nearly as many female film protagonists with the same level of moral dubiousness, which prompted her to create one of her own in “Emily the Criminal.”

“Robert Pattinson’s character in ‘Good Time’ is despicable,” she said. “In some way, it’s character, but you don’t really care. You’re just along with him for the ride. I find that there’s not many female characters that can do that because people normally want female characters to be likable, or there needs to be some moral thing going on with them, or the audience will not like them, and this didn’t have that. It was just unapologetic. That’s what I liked about it. It was like, ‘No, she’s just got to survive and do what she’s got to do.’ Like it or not kind of thing. We don’t have to explain everything. Be in the moment.”

“Emily the Criminal” is now playing in theaters.

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