August 21, 2017

CINEMA | Aubrey Plaza Faves 'Ingrid Goes West'

"Tupac said there'd be days like this."
Aubrey Plaza Elizabeth Olsen | Ingrid Goes West

Comedian Aubrey Plaza (also a producer) continues her streak of twisted but strong, interesting roles in a variety of dark independent comedies. She and first-time director Matt Spicer frame Ingrid Goes West as a sharp, incisive look into the perils of social media and modern technological life mixed with issues of mental illness.

Plaza stars as an unstable, lonely young woman, the eponymous Ingrid Thorburn, struggling with her mental health after her mother dies. She mistakes the superficial interactions of Instagram for real-life connections. After a series of breakdowns, she heads to Venice Beach to stalk and desperately replicate the life of social media influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). The pair start a fast, Hollywood style friendship based on a series of elaborate lies.

Ingrid features a fine cast of comically tinged performances including a Batman obsessed O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Ingrid's fake boyfriend and landlord. He very much shows his comic flexibilities and charisma as a one of the more grounded characters skeptical of Ingrid and weary of her self-destructively obsessive tendencies. Refreshingly, the attractive, young blonde men in Wyatt Russell and Billy Magnussen mostly serve the female characters as Taylor's easygoing trophy husband and obnoxious antagonistic brother.

Aubrey Plaza Elizabeth Olsen | Ingrid Goes West

The film rests entirely on the shoulder's of Plaza's simultaneously vulnerable and horrifying performance. She's authentically scary serious in her misguided devotion just as she is convincingly heartbreaking in her psychological exploration of personal sadness. It's a deeply nuanced performance that highlights the dark humour of socially outcast behaviour. Her chemistry with an energetic Olsen is aces as they both clearly relish indulging in being self-obsessed bad girls of different sorts.

It's often cringe-inducing when Plaza is forced to explain her behaviour. The film is most effective when it focuses on the flaws of its characters, their collective broken need for validation, and the exploitation of situations for dramatic effect. Slowly, as the plot and web of lies is artificially toppled, the absurdity is revealed in less than satisfying ways just as characters are forced into further inauthentic half resolutions or conventional twists.

Ingrid Goes West is still a fairly convincing story of obsession and digital shallowness. It walks the line of exploring very real issues of depression and mental health with mining it for heightened comic punchlines. Plaza, Spicer, and co-writer David Branson Smith have crafted a pretty lean and focused dark comedy based on very timely contemporary issues.

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