Aubrey Plaza is the low-key movie star of our time

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Aubrey Plaza is the stealth weapons actress of our time, one whose name many people know but whose presence somehow feels like a surprise every time she shows up. Even if you said there’s a typical Plaza character – let’s call her a quirky, crazy loner with zero patience for idiots – when you look closely, no representation of Plaza is alike. One minute, she’s a sensual, hungry-eyed temptress; the next one is a clever Kewpie doll, but not one that’s too cute – more like the one you’d win at a alley of nightmarescarnival style. With her dry-martini timing, she would have suited classic 1930s comic actresses like Myrna Loy and Irene Dunne perfectly, although you’d also wonder what she could have done with a 70s Robert Altman role – she She even looks a bit like Shelley Duvall, and she’s capable of the same wistful vulnerability. In a world where everyone seems to be desperate for attention, Plaza is the quintessential low-key movie star.

It’s not that she could not be glamorous if she wanted to. But why play a star role when you could play a delusional stalker, a thief with the balls to hold a box cutter to a man’s throat, a medieval nun perpetually at the end of her fuse? Plaza favors movies that don’t give easy answers and whose comedy – if there is any – is kind of uncomfortable, a way of thinking that’s reflected in two films releasing almost simultaneously this summer. In writer-director John Patton Ford’s drama Emily the criminal, Plaza plays a young woman who uses credit card fraud to pay off her student loan debt. And in the comedy pleasantly outside Spin me around Directed by Jeff Baena, who also co-wrote the screenplay with the film’s star, Alison Brie, Plaza plays the assistant to a sleazy, flirty restaurant chain owner (Alessandro Nivola) headquartered in a luxury villa in the Italian countryside – his job includes recruiting playmates for him. spin me around is one of those comedies that keeps you guessing where she’s headed, and while Plaza’s role is small, her trademark eyeroll is key to her nutty wit. But in Emily the criminal, beyond the occasional line or two, the Plaza tour is no fun at all. All comedic performers hide behind their comedy to some degree, but here Plaza drops the veil completely. It’s an incredibly naked and beautiful performance, one that taps directly into the stressful tremors of everyday life, the anxieties that most of us feel every day but rarely dare to acknowledge.

Read more: Aubrey Plaza Status Update

Aubrey Plaza in new thriller ‘Emily the Criminal’

Courtesy of Road Attractions and Vertical Amusements

As disparate as these two roles are, it’s not hard to trace their roots to Plaza’s other work. The surrounding chatter Criminal Emily suggested it was his first ‘serious’ role, but the seeds were planted at least five years ago, in Matt Spicer’s unruly satire Ingrid goes West. Plaza plays Ingrid Thorburn, a deeply unstable young woman who becomes so obsessed with an Instagram influencer, Elizabeth Olsen’s Taylor Sloane, that she travels across the country to Los Angeles to infiltrate her idol’s life. The film walks uneasily between comedy and drama: Ingrid is so delirious that it’s hard to laugh at her shenanigans and missteps, as the material often demands of us. But the movie wouldn’t work at all without Plaza. Her genius physical comedy gestures inform the entire film: after buying the exact same clutch that Taylor wears so casually, she just can’t pull off the trick of keeping it chic under her arm – she sags away from it. her like a half-filled sack of flour, a symbol of her own desolate and unmanageable life. When she is finally invited to dinner at Taylor’s (after returning Taylor’s dog, which she herself had stolen earlier), she wastes little time looking for opportunities to snoop around. ” May I use your bathroom ? she asks, with hyper-millennial exaggeration, her already large eyes widening ever so slightly, like the almost imperceptible tell of a poker player.


Plaza in Ingrid Goes West from 2017

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But what’s really holding you back after watching Ingrid goes west is Plaza’s thorny openness, her ability to scare us with Ingrid’s messy motives even as she brings out a fierce protectiveness within us. Ingrid’s social awkwardness is the opposite of what we expect from social media, and Plaza works from that raw truth. Even as she stalks Taylor, we can practically see her loneliness, hovering around her like a wispy aura. This sometimes ungovernable sense of individuality is also part of Plaza’s comedy. She is always just a little apart from the others. In Maggie Carey’s glorious 2013 comedy The task list, Plaza stars as a sexually naive young woman who prepares for her first year of college by compiling a list to help her take charge of her sexuality. This is totally the wrong way to go about figuring out how be, but Plaza makes it both believable and wickedly funny. And his first starring performance, opposite Mark Duplass in Colin Trevorrow’s 2012 time travel romance Security not assured, is a marvel: as Darius, a magazine intern who can’t find his place in life, she transforms the uncertainty of a young person into something that is almost a state of grace, a kind of x-ray view of the things that really matter, as opposed to those we have been conditioned to value.

The biggest frustration with trying to trace the threads of Plaza’s career is that she seems to be working all the time: on the soon-to-debut animated TV series. Little demon, she gives the voice of a woman who is the mother of the Antichrist. (Danny DeVito is the father, aka Satan.) And the 2022 part of Plaza’s resume is just part of a long journey. Even before his television breakthrough on Parks and Recreation, she had had small roles in Judd Apatow funny people (2009) and Edgar Wright Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010). (This was all after his involvement with the improv comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade.) His most recent film roles aren’t particularly easy to categorize: In Lawrence’s semi-comedy psychological thriller Michael Levine Black bear (2020), she plays a dual role – or maybe it’s just a single role – as a filmmaker who’s booked a stay at a luxury rustic lakeside home and a little actress. sure of herself in a film shot in and around this same house. The film doesn’t quite work, but Plaza knows exactly how to bridge the blurry lines between reality and performance. And in the brilliant underrated work of 2017 the wee hours, adapted from Bocaccio’s Decameron – written and directed by Baena, Plaza’s longtime partner and now husband – Plaza is dazzling as a moody nun, a deranged thug in a wimple.


Franco and Plaza: delicious nonsense in ‘Les Petites Heures’

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Plaza is not the star of The Little Hours: that title goes to Alison Brie, a gifted writer and performer herself, and also the star of Spin me around. (Brie, Plaza, and Baena have frequently worked together, one of those rare unions of like-minded souls who are all in the same jokes, though they also invite the audience in.) spin me around may be slightly disappointing for Plaza fans: her character, Kat, leaves the film a little too soon, but her scenes with Brie, as naive restaurant manager Amber, are great. In one, the two rush through the streets of a small Italian town after Kat offers a scum chef a free meal – together, in their sparkly and shiny evening outfits, they are l image of freedom between girls. Moments later, there is a confused moment of seduction, and if Kat is the instigator, she is also the one who suffers: the expression on her face when pushed away is a heady mix of wounded pride. and tough girl denial. It’s enough to make you wish there was an entire movie about these two.

Plaza’s role in Criminal Emily has less eccentric buoyancy than most of her others. It’s also more haunting than anything she’s done. Emily lives in Los Angeles and works a mind-numbing catering job to pay off her desperate debt to art school. A co-worker hooks her up with an outfit that pays people to buy goods with stolen credit cards. The money is so easy that Emily becomes addicted to the concert.

The world needs comedic actresses much more than so-called serious dramatic actresses: to do the work of comedy – to dig into all the things that people are afraid to talk about outright –is serious. But then, that’s exactly the mindset that Plaza seems to bring to Emily the criminal. It’s one of those social movies that works because the circumstances that drive its characters are so easy to buy: why should so many young people are carrying huge student loan debt in real life? It makes sense that a fictional character could turn to illegal and amoral means to dig themselves out. In Emily the criminal, you desperately want Emily to pull through, and yet your heart sinks when she does. As Plaza plays her, there’s fire in her eyes as she fears getting caught. But as Emily racks up one illegal hit after another, that fire gives way to numb dullness. It’s not something you want to see in Plaza’s eyes – and it’s her gift to us, to show us the thing we don’t want to see, to make us feel the thing we don’t want to feel. . We’re on that branch with her, experiencing the Sensurround feeling of her cracking underneath. That’s what actors, at best, know how to do.

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