Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell,
An unhinged social media stalker moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star.
  • 6.6 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • David Branson Smith, Writer:
  • Matt Spicer, Director:
  • Jared Goldman, Adam Mirels, Robert Mirels, Tim White, Producer:


/ 10

Aubrey Plaza has a knack for choosing the right small, just off theradar indie projects. In the past, she starred in overlooked gems suchas, The To Do List, Safety Not Guaranteed and The Little Hours, whichcame out earlier this year. Ingrid Goes West is her most recent indiegem, and perhaps her best.

Ingrid Goes West features Plaza as Ingrid (duh!), who has some umm…let's call them social issues. She equates passing interactions onsocial media as meaningful friendships. These virtual relationshipsquickly turn into real obsessions.

Her latest target is a California Insta-girl named Taylor (played byElizabeth Olsen, whose stock is rising rapidly of late), who respondedto one of Ingrid's carefully thought out comments on her latest foodphoto. Taylor's winking advice to "check it out next time you're in LA"is all the incentive Ingrid needs. She grabs her backpack full ofnewly-received cash (no spoilers on how she got the money) and headedwest to spy on Taylor/become friends with Taylor.

Through some mild stalking and other questionable behavior, Ingridbecomes fast friends with Taylor. Desperate to win and retain Taylor'saffection through any means necessary, Ingrid takes advantage of heroverly trusting landlord/next-door neighbor and Batman superfan, Dan(played by O'Shea Jackson Jr. who is about one more praiseworthyperformance away from breaking free from people calling him "Ice Cube'sson" and just calling him O'Shea Jackson Jr.) At first, Ingrid payslittle attention to Dan unless she needs something from him. But hesoon shows her that he's the only one that truly likes her for who shereally is. It's the most heartfelt moment in a movie that often hidesbehind its humor.

Of course, with Ingrid things cannot remain rosy for long. She's atornado of dysfunction and terrible decision making. Her dream worldunravels and in the end the audience is faced with a rather confusingmessage about the value and dangers of social media.

The movie's stars make everything work. Give credit to first-timedirector Matt Spicer too, but it's hard to imagine pulling off thislevel of emotional vacillation with any other group of actors.

Especially in the opening 20 minutes or so, each passing moment evokesa new emotion so rapidly and seemingly randomly that it's almost as ifSpicer was tossing dice and choosing a different emotion based on theroll. We dart between heartbreaking, heartwarming, hilarious, andshakily anxious. This is not a comfortable viewing experience.

We catch of glimpse of Ingrid's humanity early on and she remainsempathetic throughout despite behaving in mostly distasteful ways.Plaza deserves commendation for her performance, which is both nuancedand unhinged.

Ultimately, Dan reigns as the most likable character, even if he may bethe most naïve. In a story of full of phonies, he always stays true tohimself. That has got to count for something.

8/10 / 10

An off-beat, often hilarious comedy/drama about a girl (Plaza) whobelieves her world has gone from bad to worst until she stalks aseemingly perfect 'influencer' (Olsen) on Instagram and moves cities totry live like her and be a part of her life. The obsession genre hasbeen over done but what this film does to stand out from the rest isnot take itself so seriously and is able to pull off using Internetlanguage without you looking for the exit sign. It's great fun even ifits flare dwindled a little in the final act as the narrative changedcourse. It will make you laugh out loud but also reflect on how you usesocial media to present yourself.

9/10 / 10

Ingrid Goes West may prove to be the King of Comedy of the millennialgeneration. It is a charring and incisive black comedy that smartlyuses social media as a means to explore the darker side of human nature– obsession. Anchored by a savagely funny script and a pitch-perfectperformance by Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West is the deviously wicked,unflinchingly bitter, infinitely quotable knockout comedy that at leastthis writer has been waiting for all year.

Ingrid Goes West follows an unhinged and frighteningly relatable socialmedia stalker (Plaza) who finds a new obsession in the form ofInstagram photographer and personality Taylor Sloane (Olsen). WhenTaylor likes one of her comments, Ingrid decides to cash what's left ofher inheritance for a move to California. From there she insinuatesherself into Taylor's life; trying desperately to assimilate to hernew, chic So-Cal lifestyle while refusing the advances of hergood-natured landlord Dan (Jackson).

The inner torment that plagues Ingrid has an everlasting presence. Youcan see it in her eyes, her mannerisms, the way she obsesses andthrusts herself through the plot. She remains for the most part, anenigma but not the kind you can find intriguing or sexy. She's morelike a void; desperate to distract herself from whom she really is withimagined perfect lives and even more perfect photo filters. To thebrilliantly vulnerable Dan, she's suspicious; to the vapid Taylor shebecomes a monster. Who is she really? She may not even know.

Yet she's not exactly the epitome of an anti-social obsessive. Shedisplays genuine emotional intelligence; even while getting caught upin her own whirlwind of manipulations. Her relationship with Danprovides a glimpse into what she's really about as well as affirmationthat she wouldn't stop even if she wanted to. She's less Travis Bickleand more Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), hopelessly lookingfor love in all the wrong places; not a sociopath but a histrionic.

The satire of Ingrid Goes West has become a bit of a fault line betweenaudiences, critics and critics of a certain age. Those inclined tothink scrolling through your phone is an anti-social pastime are liableto think Ingrid Goes West pulls its punches. Ben Kenigsberg of the NewYork Times wrote the movie "comes close to saying something sharp…butultimately cops out in the end." Similarly Rex Reed muses Ingrid GoesWest "looks more like a tweet than a movie".

I'd argue if you take away the trappings of modern technology Ingridwouldn't cease to be, she'd simply latch onto and unhealthily exploitsome other escape such as: radio (Play Misty for Me), books (Misery) orTV (King of Comedy). Sure it'd lack contemporary immediacy and olderaudiences wouldn't get that extra dopamine fix of laughing at "thosestupid kids and their devices," but the painfully human insights wouldstill be very much there.

Thus as much as some would like Ingrid Goes West to be a savagetakedown of hashtags, Insta-fame and avocado toast, it'd be moreaccurate to call it a lampooning of human behavior. It aims its sightsat the insidiousness of exclusion, and how the need for validation canturn toxic. Additionally it holds up a mirror not just on us in ageneral sense but holds it up to you and dares you to look into thevoid. In the case of this movie the void looks like Aubrey Plaza. Isuppose there are worse things in the world.

2/10 / 10

My initial expectation was for a "dark comedy," but after the first fewminutes, I began to get an uneasy feeling that the plot was going toproceed in a sad and quite depressing manner. My feelings were provedto be correct, and at the conclusion of the film, I left with tears inmy eyes. I don't think that result is what the director and writers hadin mind. By the way, I have two daughters of approximately the same ageas Ms. Plaza, and I would never want either of them to share the sameexperiences as depicted, nor would I find any humor in most of thoseexperiences. Sadly dark, but sad, sad, sad, nonetheless.

/ 10

A genre-blurring indie starring Aubrey Plaza (I will watch anythingstarring Aubrey Plaza) as the lost, damaged and impressionable Ingrid,who gets out of the psychiatric hospital after one of the great openingscenes, takes the insurance money she got from her mum's death andhot-foots it to LA in the hope of befriending Insta superstar TaylorSloane (Elizabeth Olsen).

Matt Spicer's film isn't always as piercingly, exaltingly dark as itmight be, but it treats Ingrid with just the right balance of interest,empathy and fear, and Plaza − who also produced − is absolutely superbin the lead, bringing a great depth, sadness and humanity to acharacter who can be the most appalling, manipulative monster, butsomehow still isn't that big on Instagram.

There are elements that don't quite come off (Billy Magnussen's Nick isan interesting second act catalyst, but it's such a big performancethat he unbalances the film; the love interest's Batman fixation isfunny but pushed beyond the bounds of credibility), but it's a veryinteresting, enjoyable film that works as a black comedy, horror,psychological thriller, character study and satire on the skewed andunhealthy forced perspective of social media, in which everything is'the best' and everything is put through a filter until it's perfect.

That's not perhaps the most profound observation, but the unexpectedhuman fragility beneath Ingrid's monstrousness gives the film a realresonance, and makes it something slightly different to the razor-sharp, take-no-prisoners movie being sold to us.