Emily is riveting, Summering goes nowhere, I Love My Dad is unique

Plaza captivates as Emily

It's funny what you'll talk yourself into doing when your back is against the wall. Take Emily, for example. She's carrying $70,000 in student debt, can't get a good-paying job due to DUI and assault charges from long ago and is working a dead-end job. So, when an opportunity arises where she can earn a quick $200 by purchasing an expensive television for a front who will resell it, she reluctantly agrees to do so. It goes off without a hitch, there's money in her pocket and the wolf is no longer at the door...at least temporarily. So, why not agree to do another job?

This is the slippery slope Emily slides down, and before you know it, she's in over her head, making fake credit cards, moving more expensive items and taking bigger risks. As Emily, Aubrey Plaza is captivating, moving from desperate to fierce over the course of this taut, riveting character study. Its pointed examination of the economic forces that keep so many young professionals financially trapped is on point, while the script by director John Patton Ford frames Emily's plight in such a way that we can't help but sympathize with her. One of the year's best films, this one is well worth seeking out. In theaters.

Summering meanders to nowhere

There's a great deal of heart in James Ponsoldt's Summering. Unfortunately, there's little else and that's a shame, as the subjects of this well-meaning film are so often underrepresented on the big screen, while its message is worthwhile. Taking a page from Stand by Me, four young teen girls discover a body during the waning days of summer and try to find out who the dead man is and how he met such a grisly end.

The four young actors in the lead roles - Lia Barnett, Sanai Victoria, Madalen Mills and Eden Grace Redfield – are very good, their sincerity grounding the film, giving it a sense of authenticity that's absent in the script by Benjamin Percy and Ponsoldt. As good as they are, there's a lack of urgency to the story, as it meanders from one moment to the next, going from coming-of-age tale to Nancy Drew mystery to family drama without missing a beat, yet never fully developing any of narrative threads it employs. To be sure, we need films that encourage girls to grow into confident, assertive women. Unfortunately, Summering isn't it. In theaters.

Father-Son dynamic focus of quirky Dad

Chuck (Patton Oswalt) has a problem. His son, Franklin (James Morosini), has cut off all communication with him. So, he does what any desperate father would do – he creates a fake Facebook page, pretending to be a young woman his son's age and initiates contact with him. Obviously not a good idea, and before you know it, Chuck's catfishing his own son, a problem that gets worse when Franklin insists they go to meet his new love. Talk about the road to nowhere...

Morosini also wrote and directed I Love My Dad, which proves to be a unique, rather brave film that dives deep into dysfunctional relationships that exist between fathers and sons as well as the harm social media does on the self-esteem of so many Zillenials. That Chuck learns more about his son pretending to be someone else isn't a surprise. However, what he discovers about Franklin and himself is revealing, and rather poignant. And while the ending might seem a bit too pat, the narrative chances Morosini takes early on build enough good will in the viewer that we can overlook it. Available through Video-On-Demand.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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