Monday, September 25, 2017

Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Ingrid Goes West draws from the well of the obsessed sociopathic stalker thriller, most notably Single White Female, so obviously in fact that that movie is name-checked along the way. Director Matt Spicer and cowriter David Branson Smith attack the problem creatively, with dashes of '80s urban nightmares like After Hours and Desperately Seeking Susan even as it takes on easy targets like the beautiful shallowness of Los Angeles culture and especially the foibles of social media. In fact, Ingrid Goes West seems to be hanging much of its marketing cap more or less on its critique of now-comic now-horrific empty social media life. But the usual practical problems with internet and computer movies rear up quickly. Computer interfacing still doesn't lend itself well to movie visuals. In this case, the relentlessness of social media feeds is represented by scenes of glazed browsing, sequential posts, and murmuring voiceovers for comment threads that unite and diverge. I have a policy to disregard any pop songs which literally use the words "hashtag" or "emoji." Good thing for this movie it's not a pop song. The point is we quickly get the point. Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza, doing fine) is lonely, alienated, wrong in the head, and finds her only outlet online: connecting is connection and connection is everything. Her mother has died recently, leaving her an inheritance somewhere shy of six figures. She has had problems stalking people in the past. Now she has some more, setting her sights on Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a freelance photographer and part-time poseur (or is that freelance poseur and part-time photographer?), who does under-the-table product placement on Instagram. Ingrid operates for most of the movie in a gray area where it's not clear whether she's monster or hapless victim of society somehow, but by any code she's plainly not behaving herself, desperately conning and manipulating her way into a friendship she expects will bring her this fulfillment she forever seeks. After about the first third, in which she is merely creepy, Ingrid relaxes into her new life. One of the sad points is how close she is to having the life she wants if she could just be genuine with the people falling in her orbit. For the most part they're a pretty good bunch, if a little soft-headed in obvious Los Angeles caricatured ways (screenwriting ambitions, physical fitness and health food crazes, etc.). The truth is Ingrid doesn't deserve them, not even Taylor, but we're kind of on Ingrid's side anyway. She actually lucks into a pretty good boyfriend, Dan (O'Shea Jackson Jr), though she can't seem to see him that way. For her, he's an ally in her con, and if he can just keep his mouth shut everything will be great. There are only so many places a story like this can go, and Ingrid Goes West, having little other choice, goes in one of them. The twists and turns are still often surprising, especially once Taylor's wastrel brother Nicky shows up (Billy Magnussen, stealing the show most of the rest of the way). Ingrid Goes West is tense and funny by turns, always interesting, and turns into a pretty good thriller. It's not as insightful on social media as it thinks (let alone mental illness), but it's probably more savvy about moving a plot forward than you might.

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