Movie Night: Ingrid Goes West

Year: 2017
Genre: Drama
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr.

An unhinged social media stalker moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star.

When I first saw previews for Ingrid Goes West, I was both intrigued and put off; it wasn’t clear what kind of movie it was supposed to be, and whilst I was attracted to the idea of Aubrey Plaza, who I knew from The Little Hours, playing a somewhat deranged stalker, the whole concept of of sunny LA Instagram star-based pop culture references was somewhat disenchanting.

In the end, I’m glad I ended up watching it with Mrs. Satis, because that isn’t really what it’s about. Instead, it’s really about the psychological addition to technology, and the false personas we create when hiding behind the anonymity of online forums.

This is perhaps where things goes spectacularly right – and terribly wrong. Ingrid Goes West‘s biggest asset is also its greatest flaw, and that’s its timeliness. Set in 2017, it really couldn’t be any more 2017 if it tried, and whilst highly topical, it’s immediately dated as well. Ingrid uses an iPhone 6s Plus, which is already three years out of date, and whilst there is an in-story explanation for this, it also points to the film’s era – which will be out of date by the time you read this review.

The acting is, if not Oscar-worthy, perfect for the story and the cast; Plaza’s titular Ingrid is at its best a cringe-inducing, awkward social mess, unable to communicate outside of social media and obsessed – dangerously so – with people who give her even a modicum of attention. Olsen’s Taylor Sloane is, whilst well-played, somewhat more two-dimensional – despite this being exactly the point of the character. The supporting cast are never superfluous, even at their extremes (Billy Magnussen’s character Nicky could ostensibly be autistic, but then becomes simply sinister), but their behaviors border on the unbelievable, especially toward the end.

Speaking of the ending, it left me wanting from a moral message point of view. We watch the downfall of a socially inept twenty-something as she is one-by-one ostracized by everyone she attached herself to, and (spoiler) witness her livestream an attempted suicide. And whilst the story naturally wanted to leave us with some hope, the result is internet fame – by the time she wakes up in hospital she discovers her post as trended, and millions of people are now fans, supporting her and giving her the love and attention she always dreamed of.

To me, this is simply a poor note to end on. The insinuation is that suicide – even as a cry for help – is a justifiable action so long as it gets you what you want. And for Ingrid, it does. I’d have rather seen her saved by her would-be boyfriend but without the infamy of a viral livestream; it would have shown her that there are real people in the world who care for her, without pandering to the idea that our lives only mean something if people watch it.

In the end, though, I was satisfied by the mental anguish and drama portrayed, and the fact that it does at least attempt to show that online infatuation is not the same as real-life love. Ingrid Goes West is certainly no comedy, and at its best serves a role in highlighting the difficulty in blending the real and online worlds we immerse ourselves in daily.

8/10 would watch again.

 

Super Mario Run is a time waster, and it’s great.

Every once in a while I’ll get super into a game on my iPhone for a brief period of time, and spend countless hours trying to defeat enemies and beat worlds against colorful, pixelated backdrops. After a while, one of two things inevitably happens: either I beat the game quickly and lose interest, or I lose too much and lose interest.

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Dragonvale, a dragon-hatching and breeding game.

One such game I spent a lot of time on was Dragonvale, building myself a virtual kingdom to hatch and raise dragons. After a while I realized I’d never get the rare dragons without paying money, which I wasn’t prepared to do, and so I stopped playing. The same is true of Crossy Road; I can’t get past about three hundred hops, and so I just gave up.

Every once in a while, though, comes along a game that manages to walk the fine line between too easy and too hard, and has nearly infinite replayability. Angry Birds is one of those; the levels are easy to win, but almost impossible to win well. And I’m starting to think Super Mario Run is falling into that category as well.

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Super Mario Run—an addictive game in an 8-bit world.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time tapping away on my iPhone screen at Nintendo’s latest release, and I’ve already beaten the game—the easiest way. But it turns out that every level has not only the goal of completing it, but the goal of collecting five colored coins—three different ways. So now, of course, I’m going back through all the levels and trying to win those coins, which will lead to only more countless hours spent exercising my thumbs.

What games are your favorite time wasters? What have you invested far too much of your life into?

Thought of the Week: Finding Optimism

Optimism IconFor those of you who know (and those who don’t), I am not entirely mentally stable. From depression to violent outbursts and outright nervous breakdowns, I’m honestly pretty messed up.

The good news is that, for some time now, I’ve making inroads into coping with these issues better. I’m loathe to say I’m getting better, because I don’t believe there’s any such thing; I am me, warty neurons and all. My behaviors at times are erratic and unpleasant, and I acknowledge that I can make life extremely difficult, if not downright miserable, for those I care most about. But coping – that, I feel I’m doing better with.

pictureAnd there are a few reasons why.I’ve now been regularly going to therapy since February, and as embarrassing as it is to admit, she does help me achieve some insight into myself. It’s ironic, because the techniques she uses are precisely those I use with people at work on an everyday basis, but even though I recognize it, it still helps.

For example, she helped me consider the possibility that a lot of the strain between Mrs. Satis and I might result from a mutual jealousy of the things each of us excel at (she’s really good at making sure everything gets done; I’m really good at not doing anything). She’s reassured me with my mild hypochondria that I have every mental illness under the sun (I don’t have Aspergers, though I might share some traits; I’m not bipolar, though I often have mood swings). We’ve talked about how I often feel emotionless, and helped trace it back to when I did last feel an intensity that I personally could define as “emotion”.

I’ve also been exercising (sort of). My UP band has been phenomenal in helping with this, by tracking my steps, my meals and my sleep. I’ve begun going for a 20-30 minute walk every lunch time, and using our elliptical (finally!) on my days off. I’ve reduced the amount of calories I consume, and consequently have dropped 15 pounds in the past month or so. I’ve started making sure I try to go to bed earlier, increasing my average of 5½ hours to closer to 7 hours. It’s all helping.

My weight since April. I'm over 6' tall, so don't worry - 200 lbs isn't actually that heavy!

My weight since April. I’m over 6′ tall, so don’t worry – 200 lbs isn’t actually that heavy!

And one of my favorite things I’ve discovered is an app called Optimism. It’s an incredibly flexible mood tracking app, allowing me to chart anything from my general mood and ability to cope to how guilty I feel and the number of cups of coffee I’ve had. I’ve been using it for about two months now, and the results have been…interesting, to say the least. One of the neat things is that I can record notes with each day, which helps me go back and see when I felt a particular way and the possible reasons why. Here’s what it looks like:

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Interesting, no? Look at the few weeks of wild mood swings around the start of May. Looking back, this correlates to stress at work and a number of severe fights with Mrs. Satis. Now what would be really interesting would be to have a think about what external triggers might have caused these swings, and the possibilities are endless (and perhaps all true), from changes in weather to hormonal cycles.

It’s an ongoing process, but I feel a lot better about it than I did three or four months ago. I don’t know if it’s been external changes or the very nature of tracking my mood that’s helped, but either way I’m going to continue, because each day I feel better able to cope with myself and the world.