Movie Review: "Ingrid Goes West"
Ingrid Goes West
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) feels isolated. She feels like a misfit, so turns to social media to follow a popular instagram personality. Ingrid begins talking to that personality online and ends up thinking she has made a real friend. When the instagram personality is getting married, Ingrid discovers she has not been invited to the wedding and—as a result—retaliates in a way that leads to her winding up in a mental institution.
Upon her release, Ingrid's mother passes away and leaves Ingrid with a small fortune. Ingrid also finds another popular instagram personality, named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), who lives in Los Angeles. This leads Ingrid to use her small fortune to move to Los Angeles, where she intends on becoming friends with Taylor by going to the places that Taylor goes to and buying the things that Taylor likes. When that does not work, Ingrid's desperation brings her on a journey of manipulation and lies that jeopardizes her new relationships.
The Pros & Cons
Aubrey Plaza (+8pts)
Mostly Uneventful (-8pts)
O'Shea Jackson Jr. (+4pts)
Moral of the Story (+8pts)
The End (-4pts)
Pro: Aubrey Plaza (+8pts)
Aubrey Plaza has become known for playing comedically dark and twisted characters, but she brought it up a notch with Ingrid. Her character is comedically dark, but there were plenty of moments in which the character was really dark in non-comedic ways as well. On the surface, it may not seem like these two things are very different—they are both just "darkness” after all—but each is intended to get a very different reaction from the audience.
The difference lies within the darkness' focus or intent. Comedic darkness aims to make the audience laugh, while dramatic darkness aims to tug at the audience's heart or you make for cringeworthy moments. Aubrey Plaza does a fantastic job at hitting both the comedic and dramatic darkness—interchangeably—throughout this film. She did so in a way that felt very natural for the character. This story was all about Ingrid and her obsession. If the actress in the role could not pull it off, then this story would not have worked, and Aubrey Plaza pulled it off.
Con: Mostly Uneventful (-8pts)
Unfortunately, this movie was mostly uneventful. Ingrid stalked someone on instagram, moved out west—near where that person lives—to stalk the person physically, and tried desperately to be friends with that person. That was the plot, and—on paper—it may sound like it could be interesting. However, a lot of screen time was spent showing Ingrid eating, liking posts on instagram, getting her hair styled, reading a book, shopping, and other various and uninteresting activities.
Fortunately, the story took a turn about three quarters of the way in, where it suddenly became a lot more eventful. The switch happened so suddenly that it seems out-of-place, but it was a welcome change. Unfortunately, this happening three quarters of the way into the movie meant that three quarters of this movie felt boring and uneventful. The last quarter of the movie told me that the filmmakers executed this premise poorly. There were eventful and exciting things that happened in the last part of this movie. I also thought the setup to Ingrid’s character—regarding her previous Instagram stalking experience—in the beginning of the story was interesting and would have felt eventful if the filmmakers focused on it more. Instead of focusing on Ingrid’s interesting origin, or the excitement that occurred during the climax of Ingrid and Taylor’s story, the filmmakers chose to spend most of this movie’s run-time focusing on Ingrid doing some pretty mundane things.
Pro: O'Shea Jackson Jr. (+4pts)
O'Shea Jackson Jr. was easily one of the best parts of this film. He had some of the best comedic moments, his character was the most relatable in the film, and he had a great screen presence. It is hard to know what to expect when the son or daughter of a big-name celebrity—such as Ice Cube—hits the scene. Will they have what it takes or did they only to where they are because of who their parents are? This movie was dull at times and it was filled with unlikable characters, but O'Shea Jackson Jr. was refreshing. His character could have been pretty forgettable, but he was memorable and effective in the role, and he gave the story some heart in the process.
Con: Ingrid (-6pts)
One of this movie’s biggest weaknesses was how unlikable Ingrid was. She was a socially awkward stalker, and somewhat of a psychopath. I do not want to get into the specifics to avoid spoiler territory, but a lot of the things she said and did will leave viewers like myself unsure if they should be on her side or not. She was pretty unrelatable and unlikable—at least to me—so I had a tough time getting behind her story. There were, however, a few elements to her character that worked.
She felt isolated, left-out, unappreciated, and she felt like a misfit. These were things about the character that were easy to get behind, because everyone has felt some level of what she was feeling at some point in their lives. Ingrid's problem—and what makes her unrelatable—was how she handled her issues. Stalking and manipulation are not how most people deal with their problems, so her doing it in the story will make audiences turn on the character to some degree.
Pro: Moral of the Story (+8pts)
The moral of this story was a moral that has been addressed in many movies before this one. It was all about being yourself, wearing what you like, going where you like, doing what you like, and surrounding yourself with people who like you for who you are. This was a familiar story in that regard, but looked at the main character’s insecurities through the lens of social media. Ingrid goes to "popular" places and gets "popular" things with "popular" people just to get more followers. I liked that element of the story, because it showed just how fake people can be and how shallow life can become for those that constantly chase what is currently popular online.
This movie told its audience a few things. It told its audience to be skeptical of the things "popular" pages post online, because they may be shallow posts made for the sole purpose of getting likes or followers—and may have nothing to do with what how the person posting it actually feels. It also told its audience to stay true to themselves both online and offline. This story focused on an extremely overused message, but it did so in a very modern way—by noting that being yourself online can be just as important as being yourself offline.
Con: The End (-4pts)
I apologize for being so vague with this point, but I do not want to spoil the end of the movie. Anyway, the end of this story could be a bit controversial. In the peak of Ingrid's desperation, she made a very serious decision that can have some incredibly serious consequences. The movie, however, played it off as a happy and hallmark-type moment, almost glorifying the act.
My problem was that this minimized the seriousness of Ingrid's decision. It suggested that the decision could solve your problems. I realize that was not the intended message of the film, but the filmmakers played it off in a way that could very easily be taken the wrong way. Ingrid's decision should never be the answer to any problem and the filmmakers did a poor job of conveying that. I understand that this sort of things happens all too often, and that it made for a surprising ending. It was not what Ingrid did that I took issue with, but it was the way that the filmmakers portrayed it that rubbed me the wrong way, as I am sure it will for many others.
Grade: C+ (77pts)
I thought Ingrid Goes West was a pretty average movie. It was a fresh take on an overused message. It looked at the message of being yourself through the lens of social media, which gave the film a unique perspective on a commonly used message. The movie also had a strong performance from Aubrey Plaza. She is a proven comedic actress, but this film was proof that she can handle some pretty dramatic performances with some pretty heavy material.
Unfortunately, this movie was pretty uneventful—until the end—and was filled with unlikable characters—including Ingrid. The characters were primarily shallow social media personalities and the main character was a wannabe shallow social media personality. O'Shea Jackson Jr. was really the only likable character in the movie, so he really became the heart of the movie and was easily one of the movie’s highlights. It was not a bad movie, but it left a lot to be desired.