This is a small artsy dark comedy. It’s not going to be for everyone. But if it sounds interesting, or you want to see very complex millennial characters, and some fantastic performances? Definitely worth the ticket.
The Good: Some truly fantastic and memorable performances, directing, and script.
This movie includes the following: popular blonde white woman, unpopular moody brunette woman, black drug dealer man, hipster bearded guy, and very white dude bro.
Those characters are so played out at this point, you need not bother even seeing it.
Except Ingrid Goes West defies exactly what those characters typically are. And it does so brilliantly.
Aubrey Plaza headlines this as the titular Ingrid, and though she plays it somewhat familiarly, the character is novel. She’s not the settled, logical, perhaps boring alternate to Elizabeth Olsen’s character. Instead, Ingrid is clearly in need of immediate professional help. She is the epitome of toxic Instagram/social media culture, but rather than being the naive millennial one might expect, Ingrid’s obsessions come from a deeply sad and emotional place.
Olsen, as the Instagram star that Ingrid essentially chooses as her best friend, has all the properties of the typical blonde millennial diva. She’s image obsessed, has unhealthy relationships, and is dismissive of anything, including people, that aren’t in vogue. Yet these traits have a deeper root. She has actual tangible dreams, and her classic avocado toast/Joshua Tree loving self can be seen as building business, growing an audience, and helping her launch a legitimate small business. This does not resolve her of her negative traits; she is still selfish and emotionally abusive toward her husband.
Wyatt Russell (Black Mirror) plays said husband, and is similarly complex. He wants to be a hipster yuppie, but has a hard time dealing with the illusions it requires. Alcoholism is used as a story device here, with Russell restricted from alcohol by his wife, and as a result, it’s his only escape.
Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods) is Olsen’s brother, and the epitome of frat bro stereotypes. He’s racist and obnoxious, and clearly addicted to drugs. At the same time, Magnussen is also protective of his sister and very perceptive. He is the first to see through the illusions put on by Plaza.
Finally, and perhaps best, is O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) as Plaza’s landlord. He is an aspiring screenwriter, working on a spec script for a new Batman film. He also owns a pickup track, has a good amount of cocaine and a gun. But wait – he’s easily the most balanced character, self aware of who he is and what he wants. Jackson is absolutely wonderful, and not to be missed.
While the characters are brought to life by some great performances, so much of the good is due to the directing and script. It is excellently crafted.
The Bad: Not much. At its base concept, fairly done-to-death, but not enough to kill it.
In all fairness, it’s not the most original idea in the world. “Social media is bad” at its core, has been done to death. Look to Russell’s alma matter Black Matter for a great example of this. Nonetheless, Ingrid Goes West does take a more nuanced and “millennial” look at the subject. Here, social media isn’t necessarily bad, nor are Insta celebrities. They are complete people, with dreams. They are also flawed. It is the worship of these celebrities, and their obsession with image, that becomes the problem.
Again, this conclusion isn’t necessarily original, but the journey is certainly different.
The Ugly: No complaints here. Great to see multifaceted characters and parts for women.
Holy complex characters. It is so great to see two women leads and a black supporting character playing non-stereotyped roles. There could definitely be more people of color in this movie, though the world of California Insta celebrities may lend itself more to white folks than not.
The most interesting component of this movie is that the non-fake characters (Russell, Jackson, and Magnussen) are not necessarily good people. The message isn’t that they are better than Olsen or Plaza. They are just more true to themselves, and therefore find redemption where the others do not.
“An emotionally unbalanced young woman (Aubrey Plaza) makes a misguided decision to move to the West Coast to befriend a prominent social media celebrity (Elizabeth Olsen) she has never met. This black comedy debuted at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.” ~ Violet LeVoit, Rovi