VOD film review: Ingrid Goes West
Ivan Radford | On 02, Apr 2018
Director: Matt Spicer
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen
Watch Ingrid Goes West online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
How many people do you follow on social media? And how many of those do you consider friends? Ingrid Goes West sets that strange disconnect between our online and real life connections in its sights and takes aim with scathing wit.
Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid Thorburn, a young woman grappling with a sense of who she is. Following her mother’s death, a breakdown and subsequent outburst sees her briefly institutionalised. Once out, she heads West, where she hopes to reinvent herself, Instagram account and all. There, she winds up liking Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a web celeb with hundreds upon hundreds of followers. She’s in thrall to her glamorous life, in which everything comes with a filter and seems permanently lit by a glowing sunset.
Liking turns to following (literally), which, in turn, leads to a contrived meet-cute, and before you can say ‘hashtag stalker’, Ingrid has managed to insert herself into Taylor’s social circle, keeping an eye on her posts to make sure they’re both fans of the same things.
Aubrey Plaza is sensational as Ingrid, her glowering, likeable presence just the right balance between disturbing and sympathetic. Elizabeth Olsen, meanwhile, is her polar opposite, always smiling and delivering her dialogue with a carefree confidence. But the closer they get, the uneasier their friendship becomes – an uneasiness fostered by the growing presence of Taylor’s skeezy brother (Billy Magnussen). And that’s where we begin to see the real side to Taylor, who’s conscious of the brand she’s building – a curated approach that we all take with our online identities, but one that can easily be forgotten about in the rush to like the next tweet or comment on the next status update.
The duo are supported brilliantly by O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays Ingrid’s landlord and sort-of romantic interest, a man who brings Batman into the frame in the most unlikely and original way. Roped into being Ingrid’s pretend boyfriend, the layers of fake surface appearances build up with an entertaining blend of farce and creepiness.
There’s real tragedy, though, in the film’s underlying preoccupation with the way our social media-focused society can adversely affect individuals. Director Matt Spicer’s script sadly doesn’t quite commit to the darker conclusions to be drawn from that, veering into edgier territory before reversing back to more optimistic ground. Nonetheless, the upbeat tone he cultivates remains deliciously ironic, firing off countless shots with a grin that repeatedly hit their target. It’s in the smaller touches that the satire works best, from a superficial waiter in a diner (“What’s your biggest emotional wound?” he asks Ingrid, with a rehearsed, impersonal cheeriness) to a blistering rant from Plaza’s lost soul, whose ability to see through all the artifice in Taylor’s world makes her, worryingly, the smartest person on-screen.
The result is uneven in places, but no less pertinent. A comedy for anyone who doesn’t like the word “influencer”, Ingrid Goes West is a spiky takedown of our obsession with online connection, and the real life narcissism and jealousy that helps fuel it. Or, to put it in social media terms, it’s the movie that the world needs right now.