Title: Ingrid Goes West
MPAA: Rated R for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content and disturbing behavior
Director: Matt Spicer
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Synopsis: An unhinged social media stalker (Plaza) moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star (Olsen).
I think it’s safe to say we live in a world that is overshadowed and dominated by social media. People get most of their news, entertainment, and connections through social media nowadays whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Even children and teenagers are using social media and growing up in a society that is completely tech-driven and social media obsessed. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is a question for another day, but there is no denying the negative aspects that social media can bring to people. For a lot of people, it affects them negatively and is a thorn in their mental health. As someone who used to use social media pretty much 24/7, I began to notice how addictive it became for me. When ever I had a free second, I would immediately check my phone to see if I got any new Facebook followers, likes on Instagram, or views on Snapchat. I did not like the narcissist I was becoming, so I recently got rid of Facebook and Snapchat, and only use Twitter. Again, I won’t point to everyone who uses social media, because a lot of people are able to use it in healthy, positive ways, but there’s definitely a lot of people who not only are addicted by it, but it also makes them jealous of others, feel bitter about themselves, and ironically become more socially isolated. Where am I going with all this? Well, this is exactly the topic that Matt Spier’s latest film Ingrid Goes West tackles, and the film does it in a brilliant way. By showing every possible way that is affects us negatively, but in a darkly humorous way.
Ingrid Goes West stars Aubrey Plaza, in possibly her best performance, as a young woman who uses social media unhealthily to cope with the loss of her mother. There’s no saying all the things she did before we meet her, but in the beginning of the film she winds up in a mental institution, after ruining a friend’s wedding by macing her friend (who was the bride at the wedding) in the face. This is the opening scene!
As an actress, Plaza has always been known to play characters that are always on the verge of being psychotic, but never really are. Her character in Parks and Recreation, is a character that can be very mean and vile in one scene, but extremely caring and empathetic in the next. She toes the line brilliantly, but in this film, Spicer let’s her go full psycho. Plaza’s character, Ingrid Thorburn, uses Instagram like it’s a drug. It affects her daily life in many different ways. She becomes socially isolated, only interacting with strangers through Instagram, instead of real life people in face to face interactions. She idolizes only the people who have high Instagram followers, treating them almost like Gods. When she comes across social media influencer named, Taylor Sloane, she becomes obsessed with her and even behaves completely like her. Which shows just how celebrity-obsessed our culture is as well, choosing to act, dress, and be like other more fortunate celebrities, instead of choosing to just be ourselves. Ingrid is not necessarily an accurate depiction of a real life person who struggles with social media addiction, but more like a symbol or enigma of the social media culture that people choose to dominate their lives.
As I mentioned before, this just might be the best performance of Plaza’s young career so far. She is tackling a role that is completely complex and difficult to wrap your brain around, but at the end of the day is a person who is extremely flawed and broken. And it is that brokenness that Plaza absolutely nails, a long with the crazy, psychotic nature that she is known to slightly use in her past characters. I should point out that this film is a comedy first and foremost. Maybe a dark comedy is a better way to pin point it. And Plaza is also very funny. Her line deliveries are sharp, and her physical comedy is also great as well. There’s a scene in a book store, where Plaza finally comes face to face with her icon, Taylor, but keeps on embarrassing herself by dropping books on the floor, and awkwardly trying to make small talk. She is a very socially awkward person in this film, and Plaza portrays this brilliantly. As far as supporting performances, there’s not a lot of other performances that stand out outside of Plaza’s brilliant lead, but Elizabeth Olsen does a convincing job portraying the social media guru that Plaza is obsessed with, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta’ Compton) gives a solid performance as aspiring screenwriter, and Batman fanatic, Dan Pinto, who Ingrid moves in next to in California.
Outside of the very important and relevant message the film explores, and the great lead performance from Plaza, the film lacks much else. The screenplay is probably the weakest element of the film. This premise could have easily worked as an hour-long Black Mirror episode, and still could have gotten its point across and showcased all that was great about its story and characters. The fact that it is at feature-length definitely requires it to add some side-plots as well, and a few of them don’t work, because they feel kind of shoe-horned in. An example being a confrontation that Ingrid gets herself in with Taylor’s brother Nicky, a recovering drug addict. Its placement in the film kind of sticks out like a soar thumb, and I just don’t see why the film benefited from being at an entire film’s length. However, the movie beginnings and ends very strong so I can ultimately forgive it. Also, the film tries at times to add depth to its other supporting cast, but just doesn’t stick the landing as well as it could have. The film is not perfect, but luckily it has some things to say about our culture, that very comedies care to do. This film is more than just a bucket of laughs. It’s a wake-up call to what our society is becoming.
Ingrid Goes West is a daring and bold comedy that not only pokes a hole in our media-crazed society, but also is very entertaining and humorous as well. The film never feels too preachy about the negative affects of social media, and perfectly balances the line between the horror and silly nature of it all. The strongest thing I can say about this film is how well it balances its tone, which is something that is very hard to do with films of this matter, and the fact that it succeeds makes it a very enjoyable film to watch. Despite its screenwriting flaws, it more than makes up for it with the great performances from Plaza, Olsen, and Jackson Jr. Plaza has great chemistry with both of them, and proves once again why she is becoming one of the most talented leading ladies in comedy. I look forward to seeing what else she has in store, and if she ever decides to go the more dramatic route, because there are dramatic scenes in this film with Plaza where she completely breaks my heart. Her character, Ingrid, is a very crazy, but tragic one, and Plaza understands both aspects of her character and portrays them brilliantly. I think a lot of people who watch this can get a better understanding of the negative aspects of social media, but also be entertained from beginning to end with a very pleasurable comedy as well. However, if you don’t like dark comedy, you might wanna stay away from this one. I personally, really enjoyed it, and defiantly will be using social media less and in more healthy ways from here on out.