Tuesday, August 08, 2017

“Ingrid Goes West”– Movie Review


This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new comedy-drama, “Ingrid Goes West” starring Aubrey Plaza (who also Produced) and Elizabeth Olsen. 


When a young woman stalks an internet celebrity, will they wind up being friends or will this celebrity find herself endangered?


Ingrid (Plaza) is a lonely and isolated young woman -- which has led to some rather disturbing behavior on her part.  Since her mother’s death after a long illness, she has been using various social media platforms as something of a crutch; having a dearth of real friends, she has been “friending” a considerable number of strangers on the Internet and “liking” their posts or photos in a rote fashion.  The problem comes when Ingrid reads way too much into these “relationships”, believing that these people are actually her friends.  This ultimately results in Ingrid having a mental breakdown and she is committed.  

Upon Ingrid’s discharge, she returns to her late mother’s house where she tries to figure out how to continue with the rest of her life.  One day, she’s struck with what she believes is a brilliant idea:  while reading a magazine article about Taylor Sloane (Olsen), a newly-minted Internet celebrity, she starts following her on Instagram; after considerable online interaction with her, Ingrid finally gets a response from Taylor.  It is at this point Ingrid believes she’s forming a real connection with this woman and makes a decision that will irrevocably alter both their lives:  she will move to Venice Beach, California, where Taylor lives. 

Taking the $60,000 in cash she inherited from her mother, Ingrid rents an apartment from Dan (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), an aspiring screenwriter and Batman aficionado.  After finding out where Taylor lives, she uses some rather extraordinary and duplicitous means to meet and then befriend Taylor and her boyfriend Ezra (Wyatt Russell).  At the outset, they appear to be turning into the very best of buddies, at least until Taylor’s brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen) shows up; no model of stability himself, Nicky learns of Ingrid’s obsession with his sister and coerces her to keep him from revealing it to Taylor.  Ingrid’s reaction to this is to have Dan beat up Nicky.  When Taylor finds out what happened, she informs Ingrid their friendship is over.  Following a major meltdown, can Ingrid win back Taylor or will she have to find a way to move on without her?


After screening “Ingrid Goes West”, one thing remains abundantly clear:  Aubrey Plaza can really play crazy … maybe a little too well … This movie has many laugh-out-loud moments, but it takes a sharp and very dark turn late in the story; despite this, the filmmakers are able to resurrect the humorous elements and the jokes eventually return.  Screenwriters Matt Spicer (who also directed) and David Branson Smith have concocted a very sagacious and unique script that hits the bullseye on cultural commentary in this era of social media – and more specifically, peoples’ obsession with social media. 

Curiously, this is a movie that may have a protagonist, but it lacks a hero; while it is obviously Ingrid’s story, this character is hardly heroic.  In fact, none of the characters in “Ingrid Goes West” are particularly likeable; Dan Pinto may come the closest, but given the fact that he deals coke on the side even he’s pretty shady.  Normally, all of this would result in an unwatchable film, but once again, the savior here is the comedy.  The relentless stream of jokes make this an eminently watchable motion picture.  You find yourself in a world that is simultaneously hilarious and frightening. 

If there is a criticism about this movie, it would be with respect to its ending.  Without giving away too much, the story’s resolution seems to suggest that Ingrid’s egregious behavior may have been rewarded.  This is dangerous as it could potentially be used as inspiration for further inappropriateness online (as if this society hasn’t seen enough already).  The motion picture apparently wants us to believe that its protagonist has suffered enough and as a result is now worthy of redemption.  Whether or not she is in fact worthy may depend on how you view her previous misdeeds.     

Following the screening, there was an interview with Plaza, Olsen and writer-director Matt Spicer.  Instead of attempting to summarize the discussion, a video of the conversation has been posted below (caution – it’s a half hour in length); the trailer for “Ingrid Goes West” is just beneath. 

Ingrid Goes West (2017) on IMDb

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