Streaming Releases: Ingrid Goes West (2017) - Reviewed

Films about outsiders have always been a cinematic pillar, evolving throughout the years into various permutations that reflect the duress of isolation and the frigid world that created them. Matt Spicer's uncharacteristically potent black comedy, Ingrid Goes West is an uncomfortable examination of social media and the cultivation of fair weather friendship, a once derisive concept that has now become commonplace in a world where shared reality is a malleable concept. 

Ingrid is a mentally unstable woman whose mother has passed away and left her a large sum of money. After receiving a simple response to an Instagram post from a renowned celebrity, Ingrid takes her money and heads to California, intent on becoming her new acquaintance’s best friend ever. Aubrey Plaza gives a remarkable, bifurcated performance. In one instance, she's wounded and pitiable, a symbol for the arm's length community built in the kingdom of likes, shares, and emojis. In the next, she's a millennial King of Comedy, travelling the electronic byways with violence in her heart and an insatiable need for acceptance in her soul. 

O'Shea Jackson Jr. is the standout as Ingrid's vaping landlord and possible love interest. His chemistry with Plaza initial feels awkward, however, this is intended, both as a result of Ingrid's fractured headspace and the glaring truth that both of these young souls have matured in the digital age, a time where the rituals of courting and seduction have been altered by selfies and click bait phenomenon. This is both Ingrid's most powerful weapon and biggest flaw. The narrative is woven around the concept of how one’s electronic persona is often vastly different from the truth and how the definition of comradery is being rewritten, possibly even diluted as the internet has increased superficial communication and support while the experience of physical human interaction has been slowly paired down to basest of necessities. 

While Spicer and David Branson Smith's script avoids blatant accusation, it betrays its outsider credibility with a lackluster finale that is preceded by a ludicrous third act that almost undoes everything Ingrid has going for it. In theaters now, this is an important comedy, a unique satire on how humans interact in the face of cell phone applications and elusive identities that can be reinvented on the fly. The flaws are not enough to undermine the resonance of the film's message. As the limits of social media decrease and humanity continues to redefine its sense of community, it is most likely that there will be many, many Ingrids emerging from anonynomity to participate in the great dance of communication and partnership. The outcome of such incursions will depend not only on how social mores have evolved, but on how the human race adapts to the eradication of convention. If Ingrid Goes West is an indicator, darker, albeit funny times await.

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-Kyle Jonathan