“This is a story about coupons! Little ol’ coupons!” pleads Connie.
Uh huh. Sure.
No offense, Connie, but I’m pretty sure even extreme couponing doesn’t involve driving to Mexico, robbing a coupon factory, smuggling them back into the United States, and then selling them (illegally, I might add) for profit.
“Everyone is making it sound so bad!” she complains.
Well, that’s because it is.
But this isn’t the story of why or how she began couponing. This is the story of how she got caught laundering millions of dollars after starting an illegal couponing business.
Because while the former Olympian is working hard to launder the money she’s accumulated with best friend JoJo, a loss-prevention officer is teaming up with a Postal Inspector to crack the counterfeit-coupon case.
Ken is the loss-prevention officer who first discovers Connie and JoJo’s coupon fraud. Although he’s generally held in low regard for his brusque attitude (he refuses to let a little girl have a window seat on a plane since “you don’t always get your way”), Ken’s heart is in the right place. He doesn’t believe it’s right to break the law or even bend the rules. (He also refuses to honor a fake coupon for an elderly woman’s medication.) And he says he just wants to do something that actually matters.
Simon, the Postal Inspector who teams up with Ken, takes pity on the man, especially since other law enforcement offices won’t take Ken seriously. He curbs Ken’s enthusiasm, stopping him from screaming at people and channeling Ken’s passion into catching the culprits. And though Simon can’t give him any real authority, he nevertheless encourages the earnest officer. And Simon reminds Ken that it’s not their job to dole out punishments to the wrongdoers of the world; it’s their job to do the best they can at their jobs and hopefully go home safely to someone they love.
Connie and JoJo, meanwhile, believe that “family is not an important thing, it’s everything.” The two best friends consider each other to be family. Connie takes the blame for the fraudulent couponing so that JoJo won’t receive as harsh a sentence.
Someone sarcastically exclaims, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”
A couple kisses. A man compares couponing to sex. Some women wear revealing outfits. A woman tells her husband he is “sexy.”
We see the tops of a man’s thighs when he uses the bathroom. We see a woman’s exposed thighs when she receives a fertility treatment.
Law enforcement officers gear up with loaded guns, break down the doors of Connie and JoJo’s homes and hold the women at gunpoint before arresting them.
When a man and woman believe they are being followed in a car, the man pulls a gun and tells his wife to run. Later, his wife grabs a brick to defend herself, but they soon realize the drivers aren’t trying to harm them.
Connie and JoJo purchase dozens of guns and then resell them at a discount to a civilian militia. Connie worries a man will kill her and JoJo if they hire him. There is an offhand reference to mugging and gang-rape.
We hear about 40 uses of the f-word (including two preceded by “mother” and one subtitled from Spanish) as well as 35 uses of the s-word. We also hear a handful of uses each of “a–,” “a–hole,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–k,” “h—,” “p-ss” and a Spanish vulgarity. God’s name is abused 10 times (twice paired with “d–n”), and Jesus’ name is abused another three.
People smoke and drink champagne. We see people smoking in nonsmoking areas.
Couponing itself is not illegal. It can be annoying—as we hear from multiple cashiers and other shoppers waiting in line—but it’s obviously not against the law. Writing fake complaints to companies in order to get free coupons is also technically not illegal (which Connie also does). Frowned upon, for sure, but not illegal. Even using a fake or expired coupon isn’t illegal. Loss-prevention officers like Ken are hired to stop this type of fraud, but nobody is going to prosecute the person using it since they might not have known.
However, stealing coupons from a coupon-printing company, smuggling those coupons to the United States and selling them online … now that’s illegal. And as Connie and JoJo learn, it’ll cost you a year in prison for every $100,000 you take in.
But even with these high stakes, the gals go for it. They’re that miserable with their lives—though granted, for good reason.
Despite being a former Olympian (a three-time gold medalist in race walking), Connie isn’t rich or famous since her athletic event is grossly overlooked. She and her husband, Rick, chose to start a family but couldn’t. So they paid for expensive fertility treatments, but then she miscarried.
It was incredibly painful for both Connie and Rick, and their inability to process their grief negatively affected their marriage. Rick started taking more business trips to earn money. Connie started couponing to save money (though Rick considered it to be a waste of time). But their arguments continued, because Rick blamed Connie for their medical bills since she did the IVF treatments four times. Eventually, Connie chooses to undergo one last fertility treatment (with someone else’s sperm) before asking Rick for a divorce. When her doctor wants to make sure that Connie doesn’t want to use her husband’s sperm to try to get pregnant, JoJo speaks up for her by saying, “It’s her body, her choice.”
For JoJo, things aren’t much better. Her credit got wrecked after someone stole her identity. Banks, credit companies and police refused to help her. Overwhelmed by bills she couldn’t pay, she moved back in with her mother and tried to sell makeup to other Black women like herself. But despite a constant hustle to earn money, she could never catch up on her debt.
But it’s not just Connie and JoJo who have rationalized breaking the law. They also manipulate three other people into their schemes, including a poor Mexican couple with a baby on the way and the computer hacker who originally stole JoJo’s identity (who is still hacking cybersecurity systems and “dabbling” on the dark web).
[Spoiler Warning] Even after the women are caught and arrested, they believe they made the right choice, arguing, “It doesn’t matter how you get to the finish line as long as you get there.” Connie’s lawyer manages to get her a lesser sentence by claiming she was only taking advantage of a loophole and by blaming the corporations she stole from. (Admittedly, the companies involved in the scam don’t press charges since it’s bad press and since they take advantage of other countries’ lack of labor laws.)
We hear several conversations dealing with racism, nationalism and sexism. We hear about the KKK.
A grown man soils in his pants when he’s unable to get to a bathroom (and we hear the extreme flatulence leading up to the event). A woman vomits twice. Someone dumpster dives.
People lie, bribe and steal.
What makes a movie like Queenpins so hard to watch is that Connie and JoJo are just so relatable and likable. Connie suffered through a painful miscarriage. JoJo had her identity stolen. You want them to succeed! You want to root for them!
Unfortunately, they’re also lawbreakers trying to rationalize illegal choices. And as Simon says, “Just because you want more out of life doesn’t give you the excuse to break the law.”
These ladies know what they’re doing is wrong, and they do it anyway. But to make matters worse, they don’t even learn their lesson. They continue to break the law, doing so from a country from which they can’t be extradited by American authorities.
The true hero of the story is actually Ken. And here’s the thing about Ken: He’s a class-A jerk! But he’s a law-abiding jerk. And the guy really just wants to make a difference in the world. He wants to make it a better place; he just doesn’t go about it in the best way.
But even for viewers willing to navigate these issues, the film’s foul language and glorification of “pink collar crime” push it firmly into R-rated territory.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.