Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: "Ingrid Goes West" tells a sincere tale of 20th Century loneliness

Ingrid Goes West Review

I am an avid movie watcher and writer by night. I have a day job, and every morning I make a forty-five minute, sometimes solid hour commute to my work. There is a radio show that I listen to quite a bit on the ride in. They discuss random things, a little of this and a little of that. One morning, they were discussing the link between depression and social media. I honestly got to say, they were making a compelling argument. We do put lots of stuff online on social media these days, and for most people, it’s only the positive stuff that goes on their social media accounts. And while many post their latest piece of good news or the magnificent thing they are doing, someone, somewhere is feeling depressed that they don’t have your life.

We meet a girl named Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) who is starring at her home, browsing the Instagram page of a “friend” of hers. The thing is, Ingrid doesn’t feel like she’s friends with this person anymore, they keep posting wedding photo after wedding photo, for a ceremony Ingrid wasn’t invited to. How can you be close friends with someone and not be invited to their wedding? What went wrong? Ingrid gets so upset that she crashes her friend’s wedding and sprayed her friends with mace.

During a brief stay at a mental institution, Ingrid is constantly writing letters to the girl she maced, trying to let her know that she hasn’t been herself ever since her mother passed away. That’s right, Ingrid’s mother has died, and left her with a nice sum of money. Not really going anywhere in life and in a rut socially, Ingrid becomes obsessed with a social media personality Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). So, she uses the money her mother left her and goes out to Los Angeles, to further stalk Sloane. After a couple hit-or-miss encounters, she meets Sloane by giving back her lost dog. Which she ended up stealing to meet Sloane. Ingrid is one of those messed up weirdos that she’s quasi-typecast at playing. But she does it so well in such a strange way that you are drawn to her. Even though her behavior is appalling.

Sloane is instantly drawn to Ingrid and they become close friends. Ingrid finally gets what she has wanted for so long. For the longest time, Ingrid’s mother was the only person who was ever nice to her. She had trouble making friends. As the movie wears on though, we get an idea of why that is, and perhaps people aren’t just being bitchy towards Ingrid. And maybe Sloane isn’t exactly the person Ingrid expects her to be. And yes, this all comes to a head by the end of the film. We have seen plenty of films about people wanting to cut corners to reach a goal, to try and pull off some grand scheme that gets tougher as the film wears on. There is a formula to “Ingrid Goes West” and because the movie follows that formula so closely is what keeps the movie from being great or even incredible.

I will say that “Ingrid Goes West” is very good, though. What makes it worthwhile, although formulaic, is the impeccable work done by both Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza. For my money, these are two of the most talented actresses of their generation, and they never miss a beat with their roles. Olsen has been proving roughly seven years now that she has leagues more talent compared to her sisters. She’s been honing that talent in unexpected ways. We’ve seen her take on several dramatic roles and a couple blockbusters. But we’ve never really seen her let loose like she does here. She’s great in this movie, and the sky is the limit as far as her range as a performer goes. And Plaza? Like I said above, she plays a creep and makes it compelling. That’s extremely hard to do, no matter how many Oscars you have in your closet, and Plaza does some believable work here.

O’Shea Jackson Jr.  floored audiences in 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton,” a movie in which he played his own father. Here, he plays Ingrid’s landlord who also is writing an unlicensed spec script for Batman, hoping to eventually make it big as a screenwriter. Ingrid and Jackson’s Dan Pinto eventually are drawn to each other. It feels like a natural romance, not something that is just shoehorned into the movie simply to give Ingrid a love-interest. I honestly didn’t expect them to fall for each other and their relationship is carefully created by both the actors and the script. I think O’Shea Jackson Jr. has a very long career ahead of him.

The other big performance is by Billy Magnussen, who you may remember as one of the asshole realtors Steve Carell meets in “The Big Short.” He plays Nicky, Sloane’s uncontrollable brother, and it’s fairly like the work he did in “The Big Short,” but its pumped to the brim with steroids. I don’t want that to sound like it’s a bad performance, far from it. Magnussen is hard to look away from when he shambles onscreen, and he purposely becomes a thorn in Ingrid’s side. It’s a high-octane performance and it’s clear that Magnussen absolutely relished it.

“Ingrid Goes West” has some hard but honest things to say about the overwhelming and addicting landscape of social media and the negative effects of too much profile surfing can lead to. It’s also a smart movie about when you hit rock bottom personally, and you are desperate for a connection with another person, so much so that you’ll do anything to find that connection. It’s a movie that really asks you to find out who your friends are, and that maybe you’ll find your true friends in the most unexpected places. These are all lessons I’ve learned before, but “Ingrid Goes West” makes its points in a clever, intelligent and fun way that it’s hard not to like it.


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