“Ingrid Goes West” is a Wiser Film than You might Suppose: A Review

Posted: August 28th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

In the opening skit of the MTV VMAs, host Katy Perry rockets off into the galaxy in a designer space suit to die for.

She lands on the moon or some planet and starts taking lots of photos with her cell. Then realizes she has no service.

What’s the point, she laments, of taking photos if you can’t hashtag them and post on social media?

This is the # era, where unfortunately some people’s entire existence is essentially digital, where online “friendship” has become a contemporary phenomenon. Deplore it or not, it is a reality of now.

Certainly for Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), a sad, lonely soul who seeks succor from Instagram. The film opens with her crashing the wedding of someone she’s followed, and developed a relationship with in her mind, but who didn’t invite her to the nuptials.

Soon enough, after reading an article in an actual magazine, Ingrid’s obsession switches to Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), who lives what appears to be an ab fab lifestyle in Venice Beach, chronicled tens of times a day online. Bankrolled with a $60,000 + inheritance from her mother, and stashing the loot in cash in a backpack, Aubrey heads to LA LA Land, intent on hooking up with the chi chi bon vivant she hopes to become her new bestie.

And so through guile and deception she does.

Given the veneer thin substance of those involved, it doesn’t go well. Except at first, when Ingrid contrives a forced meeting with Taylor, and ingratiates herself until they “connect.” They start to hang out. Soon enough it falls apart for Ingrid, whose obsession is discovered by Taylor’s obnoxious brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen), whose immediate purpose is to blackmail Ingrid, and expose her.

Ingrid is certainly not a very likable character. But, compared with those whom she aspires to be, she is more pitiable than worthy of enmity. As I observed Taylor and her bro and those they hang with and their vapid purpose in life –the projection of gloss and faux relevance — the more sympathetic Ingrid became for me.

Taylor’s glamorous life, it turns out, is merely a shuck. Her reason to be on social media is simply to shill for products that would appeal to her large coterie of adoring followers, a search for “Likes.”

The more I contemplate “Ingrid Goes West,” the more relevant and perceptive it becomes. Obsession with others. The assumption of identities. Those are valid plot schemes.

It worked in the French version of Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley, “Plein Soleil.” (“Purple Noon” in America, though an exact translation is “Full Sun.”) And the master Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” is heralded as one of the great films ever. Jimmy Stewart’s Scottie Ferguson is so obsessed with an old love that he attempts to turn another woman into her.

I’m certainly not going to claim the same level of praise for “Ingrid Goes West,” but it is an observant creation. Unappealing as the characters may be, they are ardently portrayed. Not only Plaza and Olsen and Magnussen, but also O’Shea Jackson Jr’s Dan Pinto, the only likable one on the screen. The consideration of the flaws attendant to a social media-driven culture, while not groundbreaking, is a shock to observe by any who decry the diminishment of human interaction in the modern world.

Known as a funny gal, Aubrey Plaza’s courageous performance is eye opening. She also has a producing credit on the Matt Spicer-directed movie, proving herself to be a rising force on the Hollywood scene.

“Ingrid Goes West” has far more depth, and is wiser than it may seem from only cursory observation.

— c d kaplan


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