Streaming Surprises, Volume 13

Our “Streaming Surprises” series calls attention to good movies new and old. Titles are available from various streaming services.

“Ingrid Goes West” (2017)
Expect something different in Ingrid Goes West. Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid, a seemingly disturbed 20-something obsessed with social media. The film starts out showing us the extremes Ingrid will go in pursuit of her obsession. After possibly disabling a bride on her wedding day, Ingrid enters psychiatric care and we watch her in group therapy and interacting with people with a cell phone. The death of Ingrid’s mom launches her into a hilarious and unbelievable adventure pursuing the friendship – and life – of, yet another social media obsession, Taylor (played by Elizabeth Olson). Taylor is an Instagram “influencer.” Ingrid takes off West, moving to LA where Taylor lives. (This is the point I utter my first of many, Seriously?!?)

I don’t want to spoil all of Ingrid’s adventures; I’ll just say her bad decisions based on her need to be accepted and “liked,” make for escapades that seem to always be worse than the one before. Against all odds, Ingrid manages to befriend Taylor and her boyfriend, Ezra. Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid is so convincingly shallow and insecure, it is easy to focus only on the increasingly disturbing trend of living our lives on social media. Our insecurities have given rise to constant need to post everything we do on social media for all of our “friends” to see. But, there’s more. Ingrid seemed to really work through her mental health treatment at the start of the film; she really seemed to be better. But, I think she doesn’t get to apply what she learned to her own life because her mom dies. This would be hard enough if she were older with her own little family to support her through her mom’s death. But, Ingrid is a 20-something and she’s alone. Ingrid doesn’t allow herself to mourn or work through the loss of her mom. Instead she clings to the superficial world of Instagram.

I watched Ingrid with my 15-year-old daughter. While I was wringing my hands about all that this movie can tell us about ourselves, Amara just laughed and rolled her eyes at Ingrid’s unpredictable, zany behavior. So there’s that.
Submitted by Rita Bell. Available to rent on Amazon, Google Play, Pay-Per-View.

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” (2017)
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) takes the dysfunctional-family genre and flips it upside down with clever writing and creative editing. The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel and Emma Thompson as members of an estranged family, coming together to celebrate the work of Howard (Dustin Hoffman), a former professor and artist. When Howard’s health begins to decline, his children, Danny (Adam Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) finally begin to work through their issues in both heart-wrenching and hilarious ways. Noah Baumbach‘s film depicts the struggles of parenthood, siblinghood, and friendship throughout 3 generations, with a mix of realistic awkward conversations mixed with artistic and rhythmic dialogue and filmmaking. It’s not surprising that this film received a 4-minute standing ovation at Cannes. Watch it with your father, your mother, your siblings or a friend–it’s sure to delight.
Submitted by Sirley Carballo. Available on Netflix.

“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton” (2017)
Let me start by saying, I find Jim Carrey to be an interesting character when he’s really being himself. I may have just realized this when I watched his recent off-the-rails appearance on Norm Macdonald’s podcast. In it, between the hilarious back and forth (within the first few minutes, Carrey asks Norm, “Remember when you visited the set of ‘Man on the Moon?’ Norm replies “Yeah, well I was also in the film.”) Carrey gets philosophical. According to Carrey, “there is no self.” His life, he says, is made up of arbitrary distinctions that don’t mean anything, such as “American” or “Canadian”. He may not believe in the person called “Jim Carrey,” but he does believe in the larger-than-life Andy Kaufman.

Jim thought of Andy as an idol and it was his biggest thrill to land the role for 1999’s “Man on the Moon“, directed by Milos Forman (“One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”, “Amadeus”). But he didn’t know it would change his life. It was a spiritual journey. He surrendered himself to become Andy, remaining in character almost entirely throughout filming. Being in character meant he was fluctuating between Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton, Andy Kaufman’s obnoxious, abrasive alter-ego. Dealing with Carrey was very challenging for the rest of the cast and crew, and for the his co-star Danny Devito who had worked with Kaufman for over 100 episodes of “Taxi”, it was an all-too-real flashback.

The film is at times cringe-worthy because of the obvious discomfort of the people working with Carrey, forced to go along with his Kaufman-level hijinks. At other times, the film is very funny, entertaining and even inspiring. Carrey says “I learned that you can fail at what you don’t love, so you might as well do what you love.” “Jim & Andy” is captivating all the way through, seeing Carrey behind the scenes of one his most memorable performances (he won back-to-back Golden Globes in 1998-’99 for “The Truman Show” and “Man on the Moon”), as he is also going through a transformative life experience.
Submitted by Justus Bier-Stanberry. Available on Netflix.