As much as I want to say I’m above worrying about social judgment, I am hurt that a recent simplistic choice has cast me in a homely light. As a pedestrian commuter, I transport necessary a.c. sweaters in a Publix bag INSIDE my book bag so they don’t co-mingle with anything dirty. So, what’s the big deal? Well occasionally said sweaters have to be brought forth to the light of day due to cooler air and some times said bag is met with horror by one, if not two, people in my life. Guess I need to find a more fashionable bag within a bag. Mea culpa.
And so it is through that lens that many women, like moi, can appreciate the film I saw last night called Ingrid Goes West (directed by Matt Spicer) starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, an unnerving mix which, depending on your idea of what cinema or art should be, might be palatable. Like my Publix bag, can a film be solely provocative and still be acceptable? In my one and done year with the Sarasota Area Playwright’s Society, I was taught, and agreed to, the definition of art as being something uplifting (though ironically ripping actual humans to shreds in public over their writing is mighty fine*). But is simply ‘moved’ a better art indicator? *Not sour grapes, I promise. I received praise for another play that was performed at a nursing home, but the viciousness of critique when your work is not liked is downright mean.
Some might argue that the end of the film is uplifting, but I would disagree. I won’t tell you the ending as my promise of no spoilers remains true.
Let’s first explore what was unnerving about Ingrid Goes West. First the teacher-mother in me wants to say for shame in glamorizing suicide attempt as a way to gets loads of positive attention. I’m not sure we want impressionable teens and young adults to think taking a chance on suicide is a good way to win folks over.
Second, are we suggesting that if you have an army (meaning having a few influential people snowed into thinking you’re perfection) when you’re not any better than anyone else that you are allowed to bully, berate and judge others who are more alone? Or is that merely the law of nature, survival of the fittest/biggest army?
Friendship* and loyalty are the main themes in Ingrid Goes West. In the film, extreme cases of rejection and reactions are portrayed. Aubrey’s Ingrid was alone, her mother having recently passed away (in the plot from the get go, not a spoiler). She was also unlucky in friendships (not invited to a wedding for instance), had no sisters, or father (which never is addressed). In a more extreme sense, this movie reminded me of what could have been a prequel to Christine, the real life story of Sarasota news reporter Christine (see my previous review) who had parental abandonment issues as well as social awkwardness and perfectionistic qualities. Was this solitary essence combined with uneven brain chemistry what made the Ingrid character and the real life Christine more vulnerable to our current world’s pack mentality?
*Speaking of friends, thank you to David Utz, who’s also a talented artist http://www.utzart.com/, for treating me to the film and his friendship.
Male female relationships are also explored, ang again, to my second aforementioned point, I’m not sure I like the message. Why do men stick with women who are unkind? Why don’t they follow the adage that there are more fish in the sea and continue to look? One confesses how quitting his job to please his girlfriend has made him miserable and then buys right back in, another is seriously injured as a result of psychosis, but goes right back to the woman. Love, as well as friendship, according to this film, truly is an illusion.
Coincidentally, love as illusory is also theme in the Rachel Cusk book I’m reading now entitled Outline, Rachel sums up the end of illusion in relationships perfectly: “And then one day the river dried up: their shared world of imagination ceased, and the reason was that one of them stopped believing in it. In other words, it was no one’s fault; but all the same it was brought home that the what was beautiful in their lives was the result of a shared vision of things strictly speaking to could not have been said to exist.”
Obviously Ingrid Goes West sparks a lot of thought. The acting was superb and I’d be remiss not to mention the three male leads who followed in that high regard: O’Shea Jackson Jr. (fantastic in Straight Outta Compton as well), Wyatt Russell (as good looking as his mom and dad and great in this film), and Billy Magnussen, most impressive of the three, who plays such a jerk, you want to reach through the screen to strangle him yourself.
But as I told someone recently, I’m a lover not a fighter, glad to be in this world, even in spite of rejection over a plastic bag. Smiley face emoji.