A title that could be equally applied to this story as well viewer expectations, The Pleasure of Being Robbed stalks the daily random thievery of an aimless young New York City pickpocket, as she casually and brazenly in turn stalks her victims. And while filmmaker Joshua Safdie manages to walk a fine line narrative tightrope between our spectator curiosity and sorely tested ambivalent understanding for this reticently sociopathic woman, the lack of any sense of personal motivation and prevailing emotional cluelessness, detracts significantly from an otherwise dramatically engaging offbeat character study.
Eleonore Hendricks, who co-wrote the film with Safdie, is Eleonore – hopefully no composite of the female screenwriter in real life. Eleonore is a Lower Manhattan slacker loner who spends her days drifting around town often graciously and sometimes highly imaginatively, swiping or conning her intended targets out of their property. The opening hustle, in which she calls out to a victim on the street with various common female names until she hits on the one coincidentally belonging to the unfortunate woman, is the most amusing ripoff of the entire film, while what follows tends to be progressively downhill from there.
But our indeed morbid curiosity around this professional thief’s daily criminal activity, akin to public gawking at traffic accidents, seems to effectively lure us into a complicit relationship with both Eleonore and the filmmaker. And despite the moral implications constantly tugging on our collective conscience and victim compassion, in the opposite direction.
But for these precise reasons, the narrative eventually diminishes into aimless home movie territory, not unlike Eleonore’s own lack of any purposeful or revealing back story to shed some light on her enigmatic personality. Not to mention an agonizing flawed logic. Such as nobody seemingly ever filing a police report, noticing firmly tagged shoplifter-proof items being pilfered or alerting authorities about a stolen credit card, and with quite a good description of the suspect in most instances. Or, Eleanore living in one of Manhattan’s typically rent gouged highly expensive apartments even if a dump, while she appears to hardly make ends meet.
And finally, running into the director himself, co-starring as a casual neighborhood acquaintance on a bike, whom she then drives home in a stolen car – to Boston! That he doesn’t even bother to tuck his bike away in the trunk but seems to forget he even owns one – is the least of these recurrent, distracting and disorienting lapses in screen logic.
IFC/MPI Home Video
DVD Features: Two Short Films; Three Short Shorts From The Set; Original Musical Commentary track.