January 1, 2018 – This is a kind of heavy, dark romantic comedy that starts out light and funny, and ends up that way, too, after plunging into the very heart of darkness.
This is an intimate look at the most terrifying sickness plaguing the dark depths of Social Media which lead some people to enter a state of perpetual adolescence where they need the constant stroking of approval from others in order to have even the tiniest measure of self worth. Social media, it is said, is where independent thoughts go to die.
The film opens with Ingrid Thorburn (played by Aubrey Plaza of “Dirty Grandpa”) crying because she doesn't have enough “likes” or “followers” on social media. This is the sort of behavior one expects from kids in junior high school, not from adults. Perhaps this is because Ingrid is emotionally vulnerable following the death of her mother.
Glued to social media on her smart phone, Ingrid emotionally latches onto a social media star. A woman in California who seems to have it all, Taylor Sloane (played by Elizabeth Olsen of “Wind River”). When she inherits $60,000 from her mother's estate, she converts it into cash and heads to California to follow Taylor Sloane in person instead of just following her online.
She steals Taylor's dog, then returns it in order to become Taylor's friend. She worms her way into Taylor's confidence and becomes friends with her and her husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell of “22 Jump Street”). She gradually becomes part of Taylor's larger social circle of influential artists.
This all comes crashing down when Taylor's brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen of “The Big Short”) steals Ingrid's phone and finds out the truth behind her many lies. He blackmails Ingrid, threatening to betray her. Ingrid persuades her landlord, Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr. of “Straight Outta Compton”) a Batman fan, to kidnap Nicky and get the phone back. The plan goes terribly wrong and Ingrid is found out and blacklisted by Taylor. Dan Pinto ends up in the hospital.
Ingrid, whose entire life depends on Taylor's friendship, is devastated and sinks into depression. This, despite the fact that Taylor is a shallow, mean-spirited person whose entire life is based on her good looks and her ability to appear cool and sophisticated when she is not.
Although Ingrid has hit the bottom of all deep depressions, this story has a funny conclusion that is not entirely depressing. At one point in this story, Ingrid is institutionalized because she crashed a wedding party and attacked the bride because she was not “liked” sufficiently enough. There is definitely something wrong with Ingrid.
There is also something wrong with social media, which had an outsized influence on the last, disastrous presidential election. It has a large role in the spreading of fake news and silly conspiracy theories. It has also led to increasing social fragmentation, tribalism, isolation and and information bubbles in which unpleasant facts are filtered out.
In a year of great performances by lead actresses in the movies, Aubrey Plaza delivers a performance that is right up there with the best. Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Elizabeth Olsen and O'Shea Jackson Jr. give effective supporting performances.
Ingrid is a kind of monster created and enabled by social media. I am sure that there are those similarly influenced by social media who will see this movie and think that everything that happens to Ingrid is entirely her own fault. That is certainly one way to look at it. To me, this was a very disturbing movie, and Ingrid's mental health problems were the least disturbing thing about it. This film rates a B.
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