Lady Bird– A Girl’s Flight from Home

Lady Bird movie

by Guest Blogger Bill Clark, photographer, mixed media artist, and fellow movie fiend

“Lady Bird” should have another title. For those of us who remember LBJ’s wife, nicknamed Lady Bird, this title confuses a potential audience.]

Greta Gerwig (first-time director and screenwriter,) takes us on the journey of seventeen-year-old Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, brilliantly played by Saoirse Ronan (of Brooklyn fame; see my review of March 1, 2016 ) , as she navigates parent-child dynamics and the social complexities of her Catholic high school upbringing in Sacramento, California. Set in 2002-2003, the film’s warm colors cast a nostalgic look onto Sacramento, described by Lady Bird as the “Midwest of California.” but Gerwig does not let the film drift into a saccharine coming-of-age story.

We quickly witness sharply worded exchanges between Lady Bird and her mother, Marion McPherson, (the superb Laurie Metcalf, Tony award-winning actress for the 2016 Broadway play, “Doll House Part II” and the much older TV sitcom, “Roseanne”). Lady Bird wants to leave and “go where’s there’s culture, someplace like New York or New Hampshire.” So, they spar mercilessly over Lady Bird’s future after high school.

Her mother, tightly wound, overworked and the daughter of an abusive alcoholic mother, can’t let go of her past. Trying to keep her family financially afloat since the father (Tracy Letts, playwright of “August:Osage County” and actor in “Homeland”) lost his job, she tries to lower the bar for Lady Bird’s dreams but her communication is sometimes unintentionally brutal. Lady Bird’s best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein) supports her through the tortuous teenage angst involving sex, popularity and parents.

Gerwig exposes the emotional sinew of an intelligent adolescent woman from a struggling working class family as she heroically wobbles through managing to be true to herself while trying to repair a tattered, tender relationship with her damaged mother.

Based partly upon her own Catholic upbringing in Sacramento, Gerwig has said that she hopes that, after seeing Lady Bird, viewers will call Mom or Dad, brother or sister, daughter or son. I did.

Mudbound–Mired in the Mississippi Delta

 

Mudbound the movie

Set in the Deep South in1939 and then fast-forwarding to World War II, Mudbound is an epic of two families–one white (McAllan) and one black (Jackson)–who are severely constrained by the Jim Crow laws and customs in Alabama. The two McAllan brothers, Henry and Jamie, epitomize Cain and Abel. The Jacksons are sharecroppers bravely facing the disconnect between their dreams and the dangerous obstacles set before them.

Mudbounds main plot focuses on Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedland) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell), decorated war heroes who, upon returning, are misfits in their hometown. As their friendship grows tighter, so do the menacing threats surrounding them. One subplot moves into sibling rivalry between Jamie and his brother; another into Henry’s brutal and defeated temperament, which affects his marriage to Laura (Carrie Mulligan).

Mudbound challenges our concepts of friendship, family, and marriage. Sometimes the story is predictable, even clichéd. There are also difficult scenes to watch. Yet, the retelling of this story is crucial, lest we forget. The military, out of necessity, gave responsibility to both black and white soldiers, albeit in segregated troops. It is the “welcome home” racism that is portrayed in all its hypocrisy and disrespect for heroes of color. ln addition, the French and Belgian openness in attitude and behavior towards black soldiers are in stark contrast to what Ronsel Jackson has to face in Alabama.

A history to remember, Mudbound showcases superb acting from an ensemble cast of up-and-coming actors who engage us enough that we can overlook a script that should have been better. In an unexpected scene-stealing performance, Mary J. Blige, the queen of hip-hop and soul, is virtually unrecognizable, as Florence Jackson. She gives as much soul to her subtle, heart-wrenching performance as the best, more experienced actresses.   A Netflix Original, this new addition to the genre focused on racial inequality deserves to be watched by all interested in history and family saga.

“What If”–She Doesn”t Understand?

What If the movie

What If  is a charming romantic comedy perfect for the holidays. Starring Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) as Wallace and Zoe Kazan (“The Big Sick”) as Chantry, What If is a well-written story about two millennials who meet at a party and unexpectedly decide to start a friendship. Wallace is emotionally damaged from a failed romance with a doctor while both were in med school. He dropped out, and now is languishing in an unsatisfying and boring job, still moping over a year later. Chantry, a quirky intellectual artist who works for an animation studio, lives with her longtime boyfriend who is a high-power international negotiator.

Both Chantry and Wallace are somewhat awkward socially and emotionally wobbly, but blossom in each other’s company, discussing arcane topics that no one else seems interested in.

Canadian screenwriter and novelist Elan Mastai has written a sharp and clever comedy, balancing laughs with heart. Suggesting the tentative sweetness of changing the territory of the “friendzone” and the “love triangle”, What If asks the question: What does it mean to fall in love with your best friend?

The romantic comedy genre seems to be criticized a lot. There are plenty of cheesy films but What If is a gem. It’s well-written and a romantic comedy done right. Like most movies of this genre, you know how this movie progresses. However, What If still has some fresh moments, including the near universal (?) awkwardness for the woman (and maybe the man) in using the bathroom in the friend’s apartment. The scene is hilarious and endearing at the same time.

The dialogue stands out, alive with surprising turns and turbo-charged zingers as honest conversations poured out stemming from love, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings.

There is an undeniable charm in the ensemble cast’s performances (including Adam Driver). Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan bring soul and chemistry to the human connection they both are afraid of but want so desperately. My only negative comments are that neither the subplot with Chantry’s mother doesn’t contribute to the story’s momentum nor does the intrusive clips of animation. The overall structure of the story, however, with a nice “bookending” of first and last scenes is outstanding.

What If is worth watching as delightful, feel-good entertainment. If you’re looking for an intelligent–not cheesy– comedy to watch during the holidays (don’t wait until Valentine’s Day), rent What If.

Note: Available on Netflix

 

The Florida Project: Finding the Magic Kingdom

 

The Florida Project

[Another great review by guest blogger:  Bill Clark,  award-winning photographer, printmaker, writer, political activist and proud grandfather of four wonderful grandchildren. See his first review: “Faces Places–A Journey of the Heart”, October 23, 2017]

My six-year-old granddaughter’s first e-mail complained that her older brother was telling everyone her “sekrids.” I wondered what kind of secrets a loved, well-cared for and healthy child could have. After viewing The Florida Project I now know secrets a child may have who lives in poverty near Orlando, Florida and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The Florida Project is sad, funny, happy, heart-breaking and most of all, unforgettable.

Director Sean Baker deftly reveals the hidden world of six-year-old Moonee, the only child of her free-spirited single mom, Halley.   They live in an extended-stay motel, the Magic Castle Inn, targeting low-income families.

Moonee (brilliantly played by Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) leads her pals Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valerie Cotto) through a series of adventures over the course of a summer – no summer camps for them. For example, they manage to cage money in front of a soft-serve ice cream joint so the three can share one ice cream cone. They thread their way through the garish souvenir stores that line strip malls along Seven Dwarfs Way until Moonee brings them to a pasture where cattle are grazing. “See! I brought you on a safari.”

Moonee takes her friend to a gigantic fallen cypress. Straddling the huge limbs, Moonee tells her friend a secret. “This is my favorite tree because it’s tipped over but keeps on growing.” This may be Moonee’s life.

Episodic without a traditional narrative arc, The Florida Project tracks the children from scene to scene demonstrating their resilience, independence, boredom and, occasionally, petty crimes. Moonee’s mother, Halley (a breakout performance by Bria Vinaite), loves Moonee, but unable to hold a job or manage her anger, Halley ultimately fails her young daughter.

Veteran actor Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, manager of the motel, who does his best to protect Moonee, and all the other impoverished residents. More the kindly innkeeper than harsh rule enforcer, Bobby desires to make the residents’ lives better, or at least bearable, as they live in abject poverty.

A beautiful ending sums up The Florida Project–an ending I won’t disclose.

 

 

The Staircase–A Fall to the Bottom

 

The Staircase tv series

The Staircase, about a cold case murder that is resurrected again and again, is a crime thriller rivaling James Patterson. Filmed by Academy Award-winning French Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, we see a gripping courtroom drama, offering an intimate look at a high-profile murder trial and the family of the accused. Reminiscent of the groundbreaking “reality” series, An American Family, from the seventies, author Michael Peterson is arraigned for the 2001 murder of his second wife, Kathleen, whose body was discovered lying in a pool of blood on the stairway of their Durham, North Carolina home. The Staircase is not only an engrossing look at contemporary American justice that features more twists than a legal bestseller, but also an intimate glimpse into the world of the privileged and entitled, who seem bewildered by the entire justice system. The filmmakers had unusual access to the Peterson family within weeks of Kathleen’s death. We are invited behind the curtain but we don’t know why such total access was given.

The court case generated widespread interest at the time, and continues to do so with a second documentary scheduled for release this year. The Staircase details Peterson’s legal and personal troubles in eight 45-minute episodes edited from more than 600 hours of footage. The trial seems to have centered on varying analyses of blood spatter by both the defense and prosecution. The character of Michael Peterson is also put on trial.

 The Staircase was just re-broadcast by Sundance and Netflix to target today’s audience interested in shows like Making a Murderer and The Keepers  (see my July 1, 2017 review). Truth can be stranger than fiction, and Michael Peterson, the novelist, is purportedly planning to write a book about his experience with the judicial system. See for yourself —The Staircase is almost impossible to believe!

 

Faces Places: A Journey of the Heart

 

[Guest blogger:  Bill Clark,  award-winning Photographer, printmaker, writer, political activist and proud grandfather of four wonderful grandchildren, not to mention their parents, living in Oceanside, North County San Diego, California]

“All beginnings are beautiful,” Agnès Varda, famed French New Wave director (Cléo from 5 to 7), tells JR, a much-admired French photographer, muralist and street artist, who also is her co-director and co-star in the new French documentary, Faces Places (Visages, Villages)

The two artists, although separated by over 50 years of age, take a road trip together through the rural villages of France, including a side trip to the huge port of Le Havre.

Their goal: to make images. Loading JR’s wide-format photos onto his truck, they paste images onto buildings, ship containers, water towers, railroad tank cars—virtually any outdoor space. Guided by Varda’s genius for choosing shooting locations and use of non-professional actors, the two artists memorialize the “ordinary” people they encounter along the way.

Varda and JR discover and celebrate the beautiful in the “ordinary”.For example, the shy young bartender at a local bistro, mother of two, has her full-length portrait pasted on the side of a three-story building, becoming an instant “star” in her village. Her little boy tells her she is beautiful. Similarly, when an elderly woman, the last holdout in a block of row houses scheduled for demolition, sees her face — a proud image of resistance,–covering the entire front of her home, she is moved to tears, speechless.

The genius of Faces Places is the evocative themes of memory and loss, the ephemeral embedded in the permanent. Varda examines the fate of the working class, the meaning of friendship, the impact of mechanization on rural agriculture with a subtle grace and impish directorial hand.

As they travel together, Varda and JR develop a warm caring friendship. She teases him about never taking off his dark glasses (“You see things in the dark”), and he gently helps her with her chronically blurred vision. Faces Places chronicles their visual placements with lyricism and humor, always grounded in the caring portraits of the ordinary people they meet along the way.

The movie ends with a visit to Jean-Luc Godard, the father of the French New Wave cinema, and Varda’s friend (perhaps her lover?) when she was in her 30s, some 50 years earlier. She brings a bag of his favorite brioches.

Faces Places is a true treasure to be seen and cherished.

“The Big Sick”–A Prescription for Love

The Big Sick is a winner. One of my favorite movies this year! It just may be the breakout comedy of 2017 as well.

Romance, cultural conflict, things unsaid–based on a true story, The Big Sick takes on the theme of how family bonds can break when their adult children’s relationships are not what the parents wish for. The Big Sick raises the question: What’s more important– your significant other or your family? Tackling complex issues of family obligation, The Big Sick also infuses humor and grace in much of the witty and well-written dialogue.

The central character is Kumail (played by Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley”), a Pakistani-born stand-up comedian struggling to become successful as he works part-time as an Uber driver while waiting to be discovered in a Chicago comedy club. In the audience is a psychology grad student, Emily Gardner, who is seemingly “white bread”. They begin a relationship, but seem not to be fully committed.

Will Emily’s parents have as much difficulty accepting Kumail as his parents have difficulty accepting Emily? The twists are surprising and unexpected. Kumail finds himself forced to decide between pleasing his parents who desire to arrange a marriage with a Pakistani girl or accepting his feelings towards Emily. The young couple’s situation spins out of control when Emily becomes extremely ill and Kumail has to deal with her parents.

Kumail is caught in a maelstrom of competing worlds: different cultural backgrounds and traditions, difficulties of interracial relationships and Islamophobia, sometimes unconscious but always hurtful. Kumail’s overbearing, loving family means well and so does Emily’s.   This makes The Big Sick no garden variety rom-com, but a refreshing comedy drama which confronts social and political controversies head on.

The script manages to balance the serious and the comedic without resorting to a hint of sentimentality. Emily (Zoe Kazan), Emily’s mother (Holly Hunter) and her dad (Ray Romano) and Kumail’s parents– Anupam Kher as the father and Zenobia Shroff as the mother– are all lovable, well-intentioned, and deeply flawed. The mothers especially tear up the screen with their fierce performances. The entire ensemble cast–including minor family members and friends–are simply extraodinary.

You will laugh, you will be close to tears and you might engage in own introspection after watching The Big Sick. Brilliantly written and beautifully acted, this one is from the heart. It works so successfully on many different levels and that is a rare achievement, especially for comedy, which in my opinion, is the most difficult to write.

You have to see this one!

Beauty and the Beast – Be Our Guest

Beauty and the Beast movieIn this 2017 live action remake from the 1991 animated film, both by Walt Disney Pictures, we see the familiar and delightful eighteenth-century fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.   Beauty and the Beast grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing film of 2017 and the 10th highest-grossing film of all time.

The cast for this “tale as old as time” is a dream one:  Emma Watson (“Hermione” from the Harry Potter films), Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”), the outstanding veterans Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson and the luminous voice and talent of Audra McDonald.

Of all the new additions to this version of Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson as Belle gives a winning performance as the intelligent, strong-willed, book-loving beauty, and has a surprisingly charming clear singing voice.  The Beast is so camouflaged, it is a shock when he is revealed as Dan Stevens after the curse is lifted.  (Liam Neeson would have been expected instead.)  And the other animated characters (a singing candelabra, tea pot, clock, clattering armoire, and a harpsichord) are humorous to behold as they appear as Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellan, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci respectively.

Beauty and the Beast is sheer enchantment with exquisite costumes, a few new songs, visuals and cinematography to support the  outstanding ensemble cast. Seeing the “Be Our Guest” musical scene in the large dining room has almost inconceivable CGI effects. How did they produce the details so seamlessly?  They are flat-out amazing and impeccably match the animated version with dancing candelabra, feathers, dishes, and a kaleidoscopic collage of all elements from the dinner table.

For the integration  of animated and live action scenes, this is a must for film buffs.

Note:  The realistic scenes of battle and mob psychology may be too frightening for those under eight years old, depending upon the child.  For adults, the disturbing mob will seem unsettling and unfortunately all too familiar.

Wind River — Chilling and Icy, Drifting in the Snow

Wind River movieA tense police procedural and neo-Western, Wind River opens on an icy, moonlit, Wyoming landscape. Writer, producer and director, Taylor Sheridan (the 2016 Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water as well as Sicario) has created another winner.

A terrified Native American teenage girl is running in the snow, barefoot and bleeding.  She falls face down, gets up, and runs for six miles before dying from blood filling her lungs.  That chilling scene is the opening scene in the true story of Wind River.

On the Wind River Arapaho Reservation we see the main character, Cory (played by Jeremy Renner), barely visible in his white camouflage gear tracking predators in glaring, snow-blinding bright sun. As a US Fish and Wildlife agent on the reservation, the last dead body he expects to find is that of a young woman.  He tracks wolves and mountain lions.   The lethal cold of Wyoming and the barren natural beauty of its landscape stand in stark contrast to each other:  a dangerous and forlorn but beautiful wilderness.

Cory is a man of few words and enormous pain. After losing a teenage daughter himself, he is now estranged from his Native American wife (Julia Jones) but remains devoted to both her and their son, Casey (Teo Briones).

FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olson from “Ingrid Goes West” ) flies in from Las Vegas in a severe snow storm to investigate the suspicious death. Sheriff Ben (the astonishing Graham Greene of “Dances with Wolves” and The Green Mile”) must arrange for Jane to  borrow winter clothes from one of the local Arapaho women. Jane soon becomes a quick-study in the harsh life on the reservation.

Wind River paints a searing picture of life on society’s margins. Renner and Olsen’s characters both realize that the sense of loss due to a young girl’s death is not the only loss.  The cycle of hopelessness and poverty desperately pile up, deep as snow drifts. Outsiders who exploit the natural resources on the reservation and the Arapaho, who feel trapped, reveal a part of society that has long since been forgotten, sometimes willfully so.

Life is tough and the people even tougher.  The characters are flawed but relatable. However, a fuller backstory could have created a  beating heart to Wind River that would have contributed to the whodunit plot.  As a  suspense thriller, the violence, revenge, and clues gear the reader for the inevitable dispensing of a frontier “cowboy” justice. It’s a harrowing movie to watch, especially the flashback to the crime itself, but a number of plot holes keep the ending from being entirely convincing or satisfying.  I still recommend this film for its  exposure to life on a  reservation and the tragedies that remain unreported.

Note:  At the end of Wind River, there is a note that thousands of Native American women go missing with no reporting or statistics maintained:  “While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women.”  Other research shows that the murder rate for Native American women is estimated to be as much as ten times the national average.

Merchants of Doubt (2014) –Certainty Nonetheless

Merchants of Doubt movie

This film, is based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes and NASA historian Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt is magnificently directed by the Oscar nominated filmmaker, Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”).

This film is about the tactics used repeatedly by pseudo-experts to mislead the public about scientific findings critical to commercial products or practices. The tactics have not fundamentally changed in the more than fifty years since the cigarette industry began its suppression of the dangers of smoking tobacco. Kenner has brilliantly spliced together footage of several pseudo-experts, two of whom are well-known: the now deceased Fred Seitz and his colleague Fred Singer. Under the mantle of being “scientists”, Fred Seitz (a nuclear physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb) and Fred Singer (also a physicist with some environmental science experience in mining) have become the most prominent deniers of scientific research that corporate America considers a threat to their bottom line. They were repeatedly called upon as experts across industries to refute negative findings reported by qualified experts. These “merchants of doubt” — or pseudo-experts– hide their funding sources and conflicts of interest in order to maintain their credibility and legitimacy. They make their living by opposing scientific evidence counter to corporate gains.

Cigarette manufacturers testified before Congress that the science community was wrong, citing arguments from Singer and Seitz. It didn’t matter that neither were experts in the fields of environmental medicine and pathology.

Most notably, the cohort of “merchants of doubt” insist that science is neither certain nor is there consensus on matters considered settled by the scientific community. In some instances, scientists who opposed these “merchants of doubt” were threatened. Testimony is particularly compelling and persuasive from legitimate experts who discovered the deceptions from the bogus scientific evidence they once accepted.

Merchants of Doubt also focuses on climate-change deniers. The deniers don’t contest the data, which is indisputable. They instead attack the climatologists’ motives, who they believe are communists ( a bit odd in my humble opinion). Of course, these “experts” have no knowledge or training in meteorology or climatology. Singer and Seitz, the very same physicists formerly used by cigarette manufacturers to deny the hazards of smoking, hold themselves out as experts on climate change. Seitz is still active today denying human impact on the planet.

A small handful of other scientists and marketing gurus have made a living by representing conservative thinktanks such as the Heritage Foundation. The industries underwriting these foundations can create a patina of respectability and credibility by citing a “senior fellow at a prominent Washington thinktank”.

And most shattering, the Merchants Of Doubt implicates the media for not investigating climate change more thoroughly, and for giving equal voice to these political thinktanks, all in the name of appearing unbiased.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most chilling documentaries I have seen. Manipulation of public opinion is a controversial subject not limited to just political campaigns. Kenner delivers a powerful message about the tactics some industries will employ to make a buck at humanity’s expense. You owe it to yourself to see this one.

 

Ozark–A Stark, Dark Thriller

Ozark Netflix original series

This Netflix Original series (released July 21 of this year) was created by screenwriter Bill Dubuque (known for The Accountant, see my review). Ozark is so good it approaches the standard set by “Breaking Bad”.

The series showcases Chicago financial planner Marty Byrde (a sensational Jason Bateman from “Arrested Development”) and his wife Wendy (the impeccable Laura Linney of “Masterpiece Theater”)  a homemaker turned real estate agent. The couple relocate with their son and daughter to the Lake of the Ozarks, a summer resort community in Missouri.  Marty must find a way to  continue to launder  money for a Mexican drug cartel.

What ensues in ten episodes is a taut thriller with plot twists which are neither slow nor predictable. Ozark is populated with some seriously heinous flawed characters: think Walter White. But then again “flawed characters” are just more interesting, as long as we can understand their motivations. There is no message of hope–at least not so far. and the only reality we witness is of extremely wounded personalities.

The scenes from the Byrde marriage recall the relationship between Frank and Claire Underwood from House of Cards. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney have a conjugal dance that leaves the viewer cringing at each blow and confrontation.

Although the acting and dialog are brillant, Ozark may fall outside of some viewers comfort zones. While you would not want to be friends with ANY of the main characters, a few scenes may be “over the top” for some.

One criticism I do have of “Ozark” is that the minor characters who live in the Lake of the Ozarks are playing to type–or maybe stereotype–of rednecks–uneducated and desperate– who can’t think of any other life choices besides crime. There are a brother-sister pair attempting to escape their circumstances but tremendous fear and family loyalty prevent them from exiting their miserable situation. Mexicans are also stereotyped as either in drug cartels or “cleaning toilets”. Those aspects of Ozark I find offensive, and wish screenwriters would work a little harder at making their point rather than perpetrating stereotypes. The narrative is otherwise superb.

“Ozark carefully guides the audience through the story, sometimes to excess. (For example, one episode unnecessarily is devoted almost entirely to backstory.)  However, Ozark is far from predictable. Bateman’s disarming and deceptively complex performance contributes greatly to his character’s evolution. He’s not sympathetic, and he’s not good, but he’s not as bad as he could be. He is desperate to protect his family as well as to survive. He is smart, employing any ruthless means at his disposal.

Please hurry with the release of the next season!

Note: [Not a spoiler alert) The finale is an editing anomaly in comparison to the preceding episodes. I thought it was a bit sloppy and melodramatic, detracting from the overall craft of screenwriting throughout this notable series.

 

Ingrid Goes West–Don’t Tag Along

Ingrid Goes West

Social media can evoke strong feelings. There have been a number of critically acclaimed plays, movies, and television series dealing with the impact of social media, mostly negative, and primarily associated with depression (which social scientific research currently validates). Examples aren’t hard to find: “13 Reasons Why”, “Dear Evan Hansen”, one episode from “Black Mirror”. Ingrid Goes West can be added to this growing subgenre.

An unhinged social media stalker, Ingrid Thorburn (comically and poignantly played by Aubrey Plaza of “Parks and Recreation”), is a social outcast looking for a BFF. She discovers the virtual life of Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Instagram “star”, whose perfect virtual lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. So Ingrid decides to leave her boring life behind and move to LA. What ensues is at times hilarious with satirical insights for our media-crazed world.

The themes in Ingrid Goes West are obvious and one-dimensional: social media is an illusionary world, narcissistic (Trump, anyone?) and better than it seems. Yet, Ingrid’s pathological need for attention and social acceptance are believable, especially from a vulnerable 20-something woman. No one is likable in Ingrid Goes West, especially Ingrid. But I wanted to have empathy for Ingrid’s flawed character: she displays total disregard for right and wrong. Ingrid has little remorse for her actions, and less compassion for others.

Ingrid Goes West leaves this viewer wondering how far would we go to fit in to a group we consider important for our well-being. How far would you go to be accepted or consent to be manipulated?

The angst that engulfs Ingrid is seen in her face, her body language, the way she obsesses. Desperate to distract herself from who she really is for who she wants people to think she is,   social media filters her life choices with the imaginary friends usually associated with very young children.

The satire of Ingrid Goes West has become a bit of a fault line. Those inclined to think scrolling through your phone is anti-social, may think Ingrid Goes West is vapid Tweeting.  But I looked at it as a takedown of hashtags, Instagram pics, “likes” and emojis. It’s perhaps more accurate to call this movie a critique of human behavior and the social media’s impact on all of us, an impact we don’t fully understand yet, since the technology is new but ubiquitous. The insidiousness of social media can turn toxic. Additionally, Facebok, Instagram, and Twitter can hold up a mirror to us and a metric for not only vanity but for community and what constitutes it.

 

Note:  As of this writing, Ingrid Goes West is playing in theaters nationwide.