Life of Crime - Common criminal Louis (John Hawkes) and Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston) ©2014 Roadside Attractions, photo by Barry Wetcher

Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel The Switch, comes the dark caper-comedy Life of Crime starring Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, The Good Girl), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Thanks for Sharing) and John Hawkes (The Sessions, Winter’s Bone).

Set in the 1970s, Mickey Dawson (Aniston) is unhappily married to a rich, abusive, crooked  real-estate developer, Frank (Robbins).  When Mickey is kidnapped by a couple of common criminals, Louis and Ordell (John Hawkes and yasiin bey, formerly known as Mos Def) hoping to get a $1 million ransom, Frank couldn’t care less. He’s in the Bahamas living it up with his girlfriend and has no intention of paying the ransom, which sets off a train of circumstances that nobody, including the audience, will see coming.

Jennifer Aniston and John Hawkes spoke with the press about their new movie, which opens on Friday, August 29th, for the Labor Day weekend.

Can you talk a little about your characters in this?

Life of Crime – Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston) ©2014 Roadside Attractions, photo by Barry Wetcher

Jennifer: Mickey is what many housewives were in the 70s. She doesn’t have much of a voice. She married young and became imprisoned in this marriage with an angry, alcoholic scoundrel.

She’s trapped. And in some odd way, this horrible situation helps her to find her voice and her freedom, something she thought she could only dream of.

John: I think Louis has spent about a quarter of this life in one joint or another. That creates a certain kind of person. But I feel like Louis’ last experiences in prison probably had the words ‘good behavior’ attached. He has mellowed a little bit.

One thing that Mickey sees in Louis is that he’s free. She has never had that and a guy who says and does what he wants intrigues her a little bit as well.

Mickey and Louis have some terrific scenes near the end of the film when the masks come off and they begin to relate to each other.

Jennifer, you’re an executive producer on this too, so this work must have really appealed to you.

Life of Crime – Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston) and Marshall (Will Forte) ©2014 Roadside Attractions, photo by Barry Wetcher

Jennifer: I’ve always loved Elmore Leonard. I hadn’t read The Switch, I was already in a movie called The Switch.

I read the book and I love how he writes, his characters are so interesting and detailed and his bad guys aren’t the brightest, but yet they somehow always make it happen in the most charming [way]. They are actually loveable.

I also thought that Mickey’s character had such a beautiful arc and a powerful one, and to write that for a woman in the ’70s was pretty awesome. So the whole package was really exciting for me.

John, as Jennifer says, you are one of the most loveable criminals onscreen in a long time. How did you find the balance between being tough and vulnerable?

Life of Crime – Louis Gara, a low-level car thief just out of prison (John Hawkes) and Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston) ©2014 Roadside Attractions, photo by Barry Wetcher

John: I didn’t want to come on screen and for the audience to say, ‘There’s a cuddly bad guy. I think it’s important for the story for us to worry about Mickey as well, that Louis needed to be a guy who was vulnerable but you do have some darkness and a bit of a rough side to him early on.

It was a great challenge to try to lay the character out in pieces and have it add up to something that made sense.

In the movie you wear a mask with tape over your eyes through a lot of it, what was that like? And you are roughed up a bit, how did you prepare for that?

Life of Crime – Neighbor, Marshall (Will Forte), and Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston) ©2014 Roadside Attractions, photo by Barry Wetcher

Jennifer: I didn’t prepare, I just let them hurt me. That’s the best way to get a real reaction it turns out!

The ski mask was great. To try to convey emotion when everything that usually does it is covered up was kind of fun for me.

The chemistry between you is great. Did that happen naturally or did you have to work on it?

Jennifer: I don’t think you can force it or create it, I think we got along instantly when we met and I think we’re both interested actors. [We were] interested in the story and that very subtle, odd love story that unfolds, which we both thought was really interesting.

John: From my end, it’s like the script saying the character is charismatic.

There is no way to really play that. I think, as Jennifer said, [we’re] interested actors. And a lot of admiration helped as well. It makes it easier when someone is open and game to work.

Jennifer: I think you are better when you are working opposite a really fine actor. It somehow makes you look better.

John: You are only as good as the people around you, truly. We were lucky.

Life of Crime – Audio insights
Life of Crime – Crooked real-estate developer Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins) ©2014 Roadside Attractions

Jennifer was asked what it was like working with Tim Robbins as her abusive husband. Click 1 on the audios tracks below to listen to her amusing reply.
I asked John if he’d ever seen his character, Louis, played by Robert De Niro in the 1997 movie, Jackie Brown. Click 2 below to find out if he had.
Jennifer was asked what she would like to do next. Click 3 below to listen to her thoughtful reply.
Jennifer on working with Tim Robbins as her abusive husband...
Has John Hawkes ever seen his character played by Robert De Niro?
Jennifer Aniston tells what she would like to do next in her career...

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.