“Ingrid goes West” (2017)
Running Time: 98 minutes
Written by: David Branson Smith & Matt Spicer
Directed by: Matt Spicer
Featuring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Billy Magnussen, Wyatt Russell, Pom Klementieff and O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Dan Pinto: “Can we restart like a reboot?“
Ingrid Thorburn: “Yes, like a reboot.”
There have been many movies made that deal with the idea of stalkers, either shadowing normal people or celebrities (which of course are more popular), where this movie slightly differs is the idea of someone stalking a low level social media user. To be fair there is nothing really that original about “Ingrid goes West” (2017), in fact while watching it I was a little disappointed by the unoriginality of the plot, that involved L.A. based characters doing nothing new with their lives except being majorly impressed with themselves, as vacuous as possible with little regard for either their general environment or other people – which possibly explains Ingrid’s attempted integration into their lives.
When writing and directing your first movie it can be a great short cut to take an old story, or even preexisting theme, tarting it up for a new generation and presenting it as new, which is what has happened here. If you are looking for a classic predated version to this tray Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” (1982), it is probably the best example, but by no means the first. The other aspect is that if you are also looking for an actor or actress that is trying to broaden their horizons, with new projects then this can change up the narrative for the better, hiding any possible unoriginal origins. It is with luck then that Aubrey Plaza as well as the talented Elizabeth Olsen were able to be cast to show new sides to their exisiting work.
The movie is set sround Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) who is a mentally unstable young woman in Pennsylvania. After discovering on Instagram that an unrequited friend of hers named Charlotte (Meredith Hagner) did not invite her to her wedding, Ingrid crashes the reception and maces her in the face. Ingrid undergoes a brief stay at a mental hospital and, writing letters to Charlotte, explains that she has been having difficulties dealing with the death of her mother, who was the only person who was ever kind to her. After her release, Ingrid encounters a guest of the wedding. She says that Charlotte was never friends with Ingrid but simply commented on one of her posts, leading Ingrid to pursue a one-sided friendship with her.
Later Ingrid learns of a social media influencer named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Beguiled by her seemingly perfect life, Ingrid comments on one of her photographs and receives a slight response from Sloane. With an inheritance of over $60,000 from her mother, Ingrid decides to move to Los Angeles to become friends with Taylor. Upon arrival, she rents a house in Venice from Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), an aspiring screenwriter and Batman enthusiast. She visits Taylor’s regular hangouts and restaurants, and gets a makeover in her style.
I find it completely perplexing that while watching a movie that is primarily about the characters that Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen play I was completely transfixed by the actors Wyatt Russell and O’Shea Jackson Jr. who for me were the real stars of this movie, and not having them appear more was a real disservice to them, as well as to the audience watching. By now you should be aware of the talents of both Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, who over the past few years have either made impacts on television, Plaza with the still underrated “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015), Olsen in a variety of film roles including this years excellent “Wind River” (2017) – so it was with a small bit of disappointment that here they are playing one note characters with little surprise or revelation, even though it seems at times the screenplay is hinting at some kind of twist or even major third act revelation.
What I enjoyed about the two male characters was they were the more interesting depictions of people who were not really involved in any meaningful social media, so were easy to understand as well being more grounded. These two also had arcs, small ones that is, that could be followed from the points of their introduction to almost their exiting of the narrative. Both Wyatt Russell and O’Shea Jackson Jr. are second generation L.A. actors (the sons of Kurt Russell & Goldie Hawn and Ice Cube respectively) so they have innate charm as well as screen presence that lit up when they appeared – something that could not be said for the leads. I feel it is important that the men were second generation L.A. based actors, they could easily, in my mind, inhabit the people they are portraying as they have probably interacted with many similar real life people.
Surprisingly for a movie that portends to be about Social Media it only really appears fleetingly, it is left unexplained, more of a macguffin than anything else –there is no comment made about its use or impact – except for the obvious. I wonder what someone like Paddy Chayefsky would have made of rich material like this; I don’t think it would have been a halfhearted drama/thriller with little bite or social commentary. That leads into the relative inexperience of the writers and director David Branson Smith & Matt Spicer who have taken a plot that is trope laden, then layered it with an aspect of social media passing this off as new. What may have been more original, as well as a touch transgressive, may have been to write what they know, making the main characters male instead of female, thereby taking what is a feminine touch and adding masculinity as the protagonist – this would have at least made it a bit more original in the eyes of the social media peons.
I have no doubt the reason the movie is set in L.A. is one of budget, it is also an easy place to light, there are few days that are lost because of inclement weather, it also makes it interesting if the main character is supposed to be coming from another part of the US – it makes it a fish out of water story as well, which means you can layer up on the character with little effort – which is a good descriptor of this movie – little effort.
With all that said this is not a bad movie, in fact it is a pretty good movie, but that may be more down to the talent in front of the camera, which is excellent, so you will not be let down because of that. This is a good movie to watch at home where you can talk about it, I cannot help but think it is not really a go out to the cinemas and watch. If you have Netflix and it pops up on there you will have a good time with it.