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"INGRID GOES WEST"
(2017) (Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A young woman who's obsessed with social media befriends a popular Internet figure who isn't aware of the woman's true intentions.
PLOT:
Ingrid Thorburn (AUBREY PLAZA) is a young woman who's obsessed with social media, especially following her mother's recent death. After a stint in a mental hospital following an attack on another woman who didn't invite Ingrid to her wedding, she becomes intrigued by Instagram star Taylor Sloane (ELIZABETH OLSEN), what with reading a story about her and her desire to be everyone's friend. Of course, Taylor meant that in reference to online "friends," but Ingrid mistakes that and after a few meaningless online exchanges she becomes obsessed with her. So much so that after inheriting a decent amount of money from her mother, Ingrid moves to Santa Monica where Taylor lives with her struggling artist husband, Ezra O'Keefe (WYATT RUSSELL).

After renting a room from aspiring screenwriter Dan Pinto (O'SHEA JACKSON JR.), Ingrid sets out to get herself into Taylor's life and abducts her dog so that she can pretend to find the pooch, be the hero of the story, and become friends with Taylor. That ends up working and the two become best friends, but things become complicated when Taylor's recovering alcoholic brother, Nicky (BILLY MAGNUSSEN), shows up with word that he met an even bigger Internet star than Taylor, Harley Chung (POM KLEMENTIEFF), and that the two women should meet.

That obviously doesn't sit well with Ingrid who now believes her relationship with Taylor has been compromised. As her obsession turns into something more disturbing, she does what she can to remain relevant in Taylor's eyes as well as on the Internet.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov is best known for his work in classical conditioning where he trained dogs to salivate simply by having them associate the sound of a ringing bell with food. Advertisers have long known about such conditioning, but probably the greatest use of that tactic has come from social media platforms.

They not only allow people to connect with others -- thus creating a sense of community near, far and virtual -- but they also create something of an addiction mentality in terms of how many friends, followers and such one can amass. And the most brilliant, effective and in some ways devious aspect of hooking most everyone on social media is that we want our reward for posting a message, link, picture or video on the Internet.

How many times have you gone back and checked to see how many likes or comments you got on one of your posts? I know I have, and I imagine someday soon there will be something like Facebook Addicts Anonymous to help people overcome what could be -- and likely already is for some -- an overwhelming addiction that controls their lives. And with hundreds of millions of (and in Facebook's case, more than 2 billion) users, a "help the addicted" cottage industry is going to become huge.

One such person who could use that type of service is Ingrid Thorburn, the social media obsessed protagonist of "Ingrid Goes West." In this film -- that's part drama, part black comedy, part thriller and part social commentary -- Aubrey Plaza plays a young woman who's always checking her phone for posts and her near mindless need to "like" each and every one of them. That doesn't seem that out of the ordinary, but we also see her crash the reception of a wedding to which she wasn't invited despite the bride having made one online comment to her in the past, thus meaning they were obviously besties.

After a stint in a mental hospital related to that, Ingrid reads about an Instagram star (Elizabeth Olsen) and that she wants to be friends with everyone. Taking that as literal rather than figurative (in terms of the definition of "friends" in the online world), Ingrid takes the inheritance from her late mother, moves to Santa Monica (hence the title in one sense) and tries to insert herself into this woman's life. That works -- after a crime and related deceit -- and Ingrid seems as happy as Mark Zuckerberg watching his service's monthly user count increase.

But since there's still half a movie to go around that point, we know that the screenplay -- by writer/director Matt Spicer and co-scribe David Branson Smith -- isn't by any means done and certainly isn't going to have "and she lived happily ever after" as the only thing written on the next sixty pages or so. There's little doubt that through her interactions with Taylor, that woman's struggling artist husband (Wyatt Russell), her boorish alcoholic brother (Billy Magnussen) and Ingrid's aspiring screenwriter landlord (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), things will start to unravel, derail, and that her true m.o. will eventually come to light.

Even with that predictable nature, things still play out in interesting, entertaining and yes, even disturbing ways as we watch the disturbed woman (believably inhabited by Plaza) try to find connection and meaning in her life by artificial means.

While they used to say "Go west, young man," this newfangled, electronic version of manifest destiny -- where people believe and think they can go online and grab a piece of fame and fandom -- has replace the land grab of old. And it's clearly a cautionary tale where things could be headed for many, and considering how I've seen people act on the Internet, I don't think it's terribly far-fetched. If only Pavlov had access to social media, humans rather than dogs would have been the ones drooling. "Ingrid Goes West" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 24, 2017 / Posted August 25, 2017


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