Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer, 2017)


Aubrey Plaza graces Seattle Screens for the second time this summer, following the extended run of the raucous Boccaccio farce The Little Hours at SIFF (and now expanded around town), with the defining stalker movie of the Web 2.0 age. Plaza’s Ingrid is introduced in a psychotic rage, trashing the wedding of an apparent friend, though we soon learn that she didn’t know the person at all: Ingrid just followed her on Instagram. After a sojourn in therapy, and a bit of backstory where it’s revealed that Ingrid has been caring for her sick mother who has since died and left her a tidy sum of cash, Ingrid develops a new Instagram obsession, an ultra-trendy blonde named Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen) and moves to Los Angeles to track her down. Using her internet sleuthing skills, she manufactures random encounters with Taylor and eventually insinuates herself into her life, meeting her husband, her brother and for all appearances becoming her friend. Meanwhile, she strikes up a friendship and romantic relationship with her landlord (O’Shea Jackson, Jr), almost by accident. As Taylor loses interest in Ingrid (dazzled by brighter stars on her own social climbing quest) and Taylor’s brother (the menacingly beefy Billy Magnussen) begins to suspect Ingrid’s lunacy, Plaza’s performance shifts from comically manic to seriously unhinged, Ingrid’s desperate need for acceptance among the beautiful people blinding her to the wonders of her Batman-loving boyfriend (Jackson’s easy-going performance matches in grounded realness Plaza and Magnussen’s hyperactive villainy). I suppose every new stage in communication technology spawns a new variation on the stalker narrative, and it’s tempting to reduce Ingrid Goes West to a statement about The Way Things Are Now, but I don’t know that it has anything more to say about social media than To Die For did about local news celebrity or Play Misty for Me did about talk radio or Single White Female did about Manhattan real estate. The medium changes, but the essential truths of human loneliness and the pathologies we develop in the attempt to cure it, remain the same. More tantalizingly, the film offers itself up in the end as a Taxi Driver for our marginally less violent, but much more ephemeral age.

SIFF 2017: The Little Hours (Jeff Baena, 2017)


Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

No doubt parallels abound between Boccaccio’s plague-ridden Renaissance and our own apocalyptic present, so surely the time is ripe for this adaptation of a story from The Decameron, about vulgar nuns fighting the patriarchy the only way they can: sex, alcohol and witchcraft. Very funny, with Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Kate Micucci leading the improv-ed script. Dave Franco is adequate, but fortunately his role mostly just requires being yelled at and looking pretty.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Jake Szymanski, 2016)


The third of a promised six(!) Anna Kendrick movies to hit Seattle Screens in 2016 is an exemplar of the mayfly model of modern American comedy. Based on a true story formerly adapted into a book, it’s about a pair of dim-witted brothers who are tasked with finding acceptable dates to their younger sister’s wedding. An opening montage establishes their vision of the world: slow-motion revelry, drinking, beautiful people, they see themselves as the life of every party. Home videos presented early in the film by their parents cleverly undermine this fantasy conviction. In fact, the two are loud, obnoxious, and clumsy: their antics destroy every gathering and event they attend. Thus their quest: they must find nice, respectable girls to keep them in line at the destination wedding in Hawaii. To this end, naturally enough, they post an ad on Craigslist, become internet famous, and suffer through a series of meet-and-greets with dreadful dames, a Seven Chances for beer-obsessed millennials. This is apparently as far as the book goes, while the film introduces Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza as the boys’ dates. A kind of Romy and Michelle for the Facebook era, Tatiana and Alice, quickly established to be just as dumb and hedonistic as Mike and Dave, pretend to be nice girls in order to get the free vacation. It’s an attempt at short-circuiting the book’s misogyny with a “hey women are gross and terrible too”. The rest of the film consists of episodic gag sequences at the wedding, with unimaginative and indifferently filmed slapstick adding an element of body horror to the vulgar dadaist improv one-liners that have become the dominant idiom of our comedies in the post-Apatow era.

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