For a review of “Ingrid GoesWest,:
Early in “Ingrid Goes West,” a young woman on her way to Los Angeles conspicuously reads from Joan Didion’s collected essays on California titled “The White Album.”
The book is famous for the line: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
Today, we post these stories on Ins tag ram or Facebook, becoming the unreliable narrators of our own lives, casting about for what Didion called “the imposition of a narrative line.”
“Ingrid Goes West” is a status update of these themes. Directed by Matt Spicer, the movie is an inventive and shrewd satire of theway social media can be used to describe and distort the lives of users.
It’s overdue. Given the drastic changes this technology has wrought on culture and on the behavior of individuals, it’s a little weird that Hollywood hasn’t scrutinized the subject withmore vigor.
“The Social Network” found a subtle layer of foundational hostility in the Facebook origins story, and there was an ill- fated adaptation of Dave Eggers’ “The Circle” earlier this year, but for the most part Hollywood has taken a chummy view of smart phones and social media— most often seen as trendy lifestyle accessories for hip, fashionable romcom characters.
The worm has turned recently, though.
Silicon Valley ex- pats are giving TED Talks on theway Facebook uses slot- machine psychology to feed click addictions. Psychiatrists are noting the link between increased social- media use and unhappiness, evenmental- health problems.
It’s a wrinkle “Ingrid Goes West” seems to have anticipated. Themovie’s title character ( Aubrey Plaza) is a youngwoman whose fragile mental health is established in the very first scene, crashing a wedding.
She is, to say the least, poorly equipped to maintain successful real- life friendships. So she heads for L. A. and Hollywood, where the boundaries of real life are more elastic, evenmore so as lives have moved online ( themovie has amusing insight of the latest iteration so fL. A. creativeclass materialism ).
Ingrid becomes enchanted with Instagram “influencer” Taylor Sloane ( Elizabeth Olsen), following her on the web, and then just plain following her. The crafty, needy Ingrid successfully ingratiates herself with Taylor, via social media and through oldfashioned, analogue stalking techniques.
The kicker: Ingrid pursues this simulation of affection even as the real thing turns up in her life. Ingrid’s neighbor ( O’Shea Jackson Jr.) has a crush on her, but Ingrid can only think to use her growing intimacy with himto further her phony friendship with Taylor.
Jackson, by theway, is somewhat of a revelation. He shows a confident, relaxed screen presence 180 degrees removed fromthe scowling impersonator of his real- life dad, Ice Cube, thatwe sawin “Straight Outta Compton.” Andhe has a knack for comedy _ his character is a Batman fanatic, and a scene detailing ac os play consummation with Ingrid is one of the year’s funniest.
As for Plaza, we already know she’s funny fromher roles in “Parks and Recreation” and “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Here, she pushes bravely back against her image as the shrugging slacker who doesn’t care about anything. Ingrid cares obsessively, completely, destructively.
The reckoning for all of this finds Plaza at her most honest and vulnerable _ embodying, as Didion once wrote of herself, awoman who comes “to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself.”
That lady was a pretty good writer.
You’d think she’d have more followers.
“Ingrid Goes West,” a Neon release, is rated R for language. Running time: 97 minutes. ★★★
“The Trip to Spain”
At one point in “The Trip to Spain,” Rob Brydon, at a restaurant table in Spain, imitates Mick Jagger imitating Rob Brydon imitating Michael Caine. ( I’ll pause for you to catch up with that sentence. All good now?) And then Steve Coogan jumps in, imitating Brydon imitating Jagger imitating Brydon imitating Caine, throwing in a head- jerking, peacocky move and a puffed- out penguin chest and a weird little airborne clap, and all you can think is, a) yes, that is exactly what Mick Jagger sounds like, and b) I wish Iwere at that table.
That’s the pleasure of the uneven but enjoyable “Trip” movies, of which this is the third installment: For better orw orse, it’s almost like being at that table.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom (“In This World,” “Tristram Shandy,” “A Mighty Heart”), this trio is perhaps filmdom’s oddest franchise: It’s based on a BBC series inwhich British actors Brydon and Coogan — playing characters who happen to be British actors named Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan— travel through England (“The Trip,” 2010), Italy (“The Trip to Italy,” 2014) and now Spain; they dine in lovely restaurants, stay in beautiful hotels and, mostly, sit around doing impressions between bites.
If this sounds like a rather weak hook to hang an entire movie on, well, I won’t argue: The “Trip” movies, like the anchovies Coogan and Brydon happily devour, aren’t to everyone’s taste. This installment, despite a fair bit of bittersweet musing about middle age ( noting that they are now ripe fruit, one wonders “Is it better to be plucked, or to drop?”) and some amusing allusions to “Don Quixote,” is as plotless as ever, and the cooking/ food shots still seem like outtakes froma promotional travel video.
But oh, those impressions, which this time include Brando, John Hurt, Ian McKellen, Bogart, Woody Allen, Anthony Hopkins and a truly fabulous “Stones doing Shakespeare” bit, in case you’ve ever wondered what Mick Jagger’s Hamlet might sound like. I hadn’t; turns out, Iwas missing something.
“The Trip to Spain,” a Revolution Films release, is not rated but is formature audiences due to strong language. Running time: 108 minutes. ★★★
There was a time when being an inch from Robert Pattinson’s face was the fervent dream of millions worldwide.
In “Good Time,” itwas less enthralling. Themovie, starring Pattinson as a small- time hood, has some big- time close- ups. A nonstop 100 minutes of them, whether zooming in on Pattinson’s famous mug or providing a handheld account of a poor security guard getting beaten half to death in the service of themovie’s shambling, “comic” narrative.
“Good Time,” written and directed by low- budget indie filmmakers Josh and Ben Safdie, borrows a synth score from John Carpenter and nods in the direction of “Dog Day Afternoon” _ there is the odor of losers involved in a doomed enterprise.
“Good Time” begins with brothers Connie and Nick Nikas ( Pattinson and Ben Safdie) robbing a bank and fleeing police, then pivots to become a story of escalating mayhem moving in tandem with Connie’s declining prospects of success. Connie is the by- default brains of the outfit, and he acts ( when not recruiting Nick to take part in a felony) to protect his mentally challenged brother. The setup has faint echoes of “Of Mice and Men,” but the movie does not aspire to that level of human dignity, and in any event, the script separates the two characters in short order.
The bulk of the movie follows Connie’s desperate attempts to recover the money he’s stashed, unfolding in what often feels like real time. For this he exploits anyone within arm’s length — his credulous pushover girlfriend ( Jennifer Jason Leigh, who’s had better roles), a parolee ( Buddy Duress) also dodging the cops, a hapless cabbie, etc.
Themovie pitches Connie’s behavior as the spur- ofthemoment improvisations of a hustler out to save his brother, often played for laughs, but a ruthlessness shows through. This adds a toxic tone to scenes that involve immigrants and minorities, although this is probably unintended.
Connie is meant to be just another guy from the outer boroughs, indistinguishable from the other blue- collar denizens of Queens. The problem is that he’s not just another guy. He’s Robert Pattinson, and his stature gets in theway of the story. The Safdies don’t help matters by injecting a scene inwhich opportunistic Connie “charms” a teenage girl, surely a wink at audiences who recall Pattinson from his vampire seduction days.
“Good Time,” an A24 Films release, is rated R for drug use and violence. Running time: 100 minutes. ★★
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star in “The Trip to Spain.”