Ingrid Goes West: NO.
The story of a woman driven mad by her social-media addiction who manipulates her way into the life of an Instagram “star”, “Ingrid Goes West” is a well-made, pointed satire of our society’s worsening communications, but on a moral level, its depicted behavior is so awful that it’s likely to turn off most discerning viewers.
Wind River: YES.
A serious thriller with a touchingly humane undertone to a dark topic, “Wind River” explores the death of a young woman on a remote Indian reservation by a big-city FBI agent who relies on a local game tracker to help her navigate a world she doesn’t understand. It’s a downer at times, but it’s a gripping mystery that is touching by the end.
Social media addiction is a growing problem among Americans, and the new movie Ingrid Goes West offers a dark satire about that sad state of affairs. A woman who leads an utterly empty life by spending her days obsessively searching for “likes” and the new postings of those with a large number of followers, Ingrid could be any one of the millions constantly staring down at their smartphones rather than interacting with the world at large.
Director Matt Spicer Pulls of a Difficult Balancing Act
Directed by Matt Spicer in his feature debut, Ingrid skillfully pulls off an extremely difficult balancing act. On the one hand, it’s about mostly awful people, none of whom viewers should want to root for. On the other, it is taking point-blank critical aim at their behavior in a way that is often funny in spite of itself – and switches gears effectively into some serious moments depicting these actions as mentally disturbed behavior.
The movie kicks off with Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation) crashing a wedding reception and macing the bride in the eyes for not inviting her, an action that results in a quick trip to a mental hospital.
The idea is to break her psychotic rage and her obsession with Instagram – because she only knew the bride by manipulating her way into her life after meeting her via the site, and never should have expected to be invited to the wedding in the first place.
Ingrid quickly winds up in a mental hospital until she seems to resolve her social-media obsession. Yet upon her release, Ingrid finds another friend on Instagram, a woman named Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen, Avengers: Ultron) who is living a seemingly glamorous life in Los Angeles.
Cashing in a $60,000 inheritance from her late mother, Ingrid abruptly moves to LA to stalk Taylor and worm her way into her life. She rents a house in Taylor’s Venice neighborhood from a too-trusting guy named Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and steals Taylor’s dog in order to meet her when she returns it.
The two become fast friends, although Taylor is unaware that Ingrid is an entirely fake person. With Taylor herself living a false and vacuous existence in which her every move is photographed for Instagram since her “career” involves promoting products in her pictures, they are a seemingly perfect match.
But as Taylor’s husband and sleazy brother start to wonder about Ingrid’s odd behavior and notice her stories don’t add up, she winds up roping the unwitting Dan into her schemes. Her determination to avoid being caught and to grow ever closer to Taylor and her fame escalates into a surprisingly violent turn of events and eventually some serious consequences.
Close to Being a Great Commentary on the Dangers of Social Media Addiction
Ingrid centers on a woman who is clearly disturbed and engages in morally abhorrent behavior towards everyone around her. Pushy, deceptive and manipulative, she is the worst person in a circle of people whose lives are shallowly centered on the empty allure of fame, and living lazy lives in which the most positive character is constantly smoking marijuana.
Over the course of the film, Ingrid uses cocaine with Taylor, hatches a kidnapping plot that goes extremely awry, and engages in seduction to get what she wants – and that’s just the half of it, with plenty of foul language also clouding it.
As mentioned before, the film manages to create a unique tone in which much of this manages to be humorous yet critical on a secular artistic level, but when looking at things from a moral point of view, it’s unfortunately unacceptable.
It’s a shame, since the topic of social-media addiction and how it’s affecting our ability to form healthy relationships is one that is worthy and definitely timely. But there is definitely a point in which the depiction of corrupt behavior can corrupt the viewer’s sense of moral reasoning as well, and Ingrid crosses it.
Plaza shows genuine talent here, both for energetic comedy and in showing the broken person buried beneath the surface of Ingrid. Jackson shows a lot of charm, with a deeply rooted kindness under Dan’s surface as well, while Olsen is solid at portraying a vacuous person with a falsely glamorous life.
Ingrid Goes West attempts to be a morality play for our extremely misguided times, but features so much immorality along the way to its conclusion that Catholics should probably head in another direction.
While Ingrid shows just how bad things can get when people replace real-life interaction with online ones, “Wind River” offers a powerful exploration of just how badly things can go awry when people are cut off from others by geographical and economic forces beyond their control.
A slow-burning thriller set amid the harshly cold and endless expanses of the titular Native American reservation in Wyoming, the film stars Jeremy Renner (Marvel Cinematic Universe) as Cory Lambert, a game tracker for the US Fish and Wildlife Service who stumbles across the frozen corpse of a teenage girl in the mountains.
When he makes a call for investigative support, the FBI sends in Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, in a much deeper performance than the one she gives in Ingrid), an agent from its nearest outpost in Las Vegas who finds herself completely out of her depth.
Cory is used to tracking and killing coyotes and mountain lions when they eat too many of the local horses and cattle, but finding a human killer is another story. Meanwhile, Jane arrives amid a raging snowstorm with nothing but a windbreaker to protect her from the cold and sporting thong rather than thermal underwear.
Jane knows that the only way she will be allowed to expand the federal investigation is if the death is ruled a homicide, and the ruling seems obvious due to the victim’s bloody mouth and telltale signs of a group sexual assault. Yet bureaucratic loopholes prohibit the medical examiner from making a clear call, so she asks Ben to force a ruling and enlists Cory to help her navigate the area.
What she doesn’t realize is that Cory has his own sad, extra incentive for finding the killer: he knows the dead girl was named Natalie, and she was the best friend of his own daughter, who died mysteriously three years before. As they dig deeper amid the reservation’s socioeconomically desperate inhabitants, Jane comes to realize that she has entered a world in which sadness seems to know no limits.
Writer-director Taylor Sheridan was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay on last year’s superb modern Western Hell or High Water, which followed two economically stressed Caucasian brothers as they engaged in a string of bank robberies across small-town Texas in order to save their ranch. He flips the script here to show the Native American side of life in the West, and again creates a fully absorbing setting that is made all the more intriguing by the fact it is one rarely seen onscreen.
Everyone Cory and Jane encounter lives in a trailer or tiny house, while Ben informs her that the young men on the reservation often pursue drugs and crime because a prison cell offers a more stable existence than the one in which they are already trapped. The women have it even worse, overlooked by nearly everyone around them — meaning Jane faces the additional challenge of the residents’ cultural bias against strong females.
Wind River Delivers on Subtle Reveals and Glimmers of Humanity
Sheridan doles out his reveals sparingly, a quality that should maintain viewer interest throughout since he doesn’t fall into the common trap of giving away too many clues early on. When he finally uncoils the tension in a pair of explosive showdowns, the effect is gasp-inducing.
Against these stark circumstances, Renner and Olsen deliver what might be the best performances of their careers. Both are masters of subtlety here, as they attempt to maintain strong exteriors to match the hard-bitten personalities of the people around them while slowly breaking down on the inside.
Wind River has some foul language throughout, though not at an extremely noticeable level for this kind of thriller. Its violence is graphic but occurs in quick bursts, although the scene in which the woman is assaulted is disturbing.
Yet, even at its darkest moments, the film has glimmers of humanity that offer a sense of hard-won hope. For those who enjoy some emotional chill amid the overheated blockbusters of summer, Wind River will fit the bill.
INGRID GOES WEST: **½
WIND RIVER: ***½