Reviews in Short: January 2023

Emily the Criminal


Aubrey Plaza starring as the tough-as-nails protagonist in a gritty crime drama? Sure, why not. Writer-director John Patton Ford’s low-budget debut feature is a minor masterpiece of tension, pacing, and unexpected turns. Will novice “dummy shopper” Aubrey learn that crime doesn’t pay, or will she live happily ever after?

Bonus: If you don’t know much about the intricacies of credit-card fraud, the burdens of student-loan debt, or the perils of workplace background checks, you will after watching this gem. Release: 2022 Grade: A-




White Noise


As far as I’m concerned, the biggest sin any movie can commit is to be boring. No worries on that count with director Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of a Don DeLillo novel.

White Noise is (take your pick) a satire on materialism, a family comedy, a drama about infidelity, or a disaster pic about an “airborne toxic event.” It’s all of those, and the mishmash is at times confusing. But Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig, as (gasp!) intellectual Ohioans dealing with all the above, keep things interesting. Release: 2022 Grade: B+




The Motive


I really like the premise of this Spanish film: a talentless “little man” catches his successful-author wife cheating on him and then, partly as revenge but also because he believes that he, too, can publish a book, concocts a plan.

Acting on the advice of his writing-class instructor (“write what you know!”), he decides to manipulate the lives of his apartment neighbors so that he can draw on their pain for his novel. After all, since his own life is so drab and depressing, why not tap into theirs?

This great premise is undermined, unfortunately, by a twist-ending that is both underdeveloped and unconvincing. Release: 2017 Grade: B



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