Director: Matt Spicer
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff
Don’t let this film’s marketing fool you. This is not your usual comedy flick. If I were to categorise it, I would say that Ingrid Goes West is a horror movie with some funny moments, much like Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Director Matt Spicer and his co-writer, David Branson Smith, have created something genuinely unnerving in Ingrid Goes West because what happens in it could so easily happen to anybody who has an Instagram account or is even just active on social media.
The film follows the torrid tale of Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) who finds it very difficult to make friends and decides to stalk them on Instagram instead to get a sense of closeness. She certainly has a problem and at the very beginning of the film, we see her crash a wedding and then pepper spray the bride in the face because she was upset that she hadn’t been invited to be part of her special day.
This lands her in a mental hospital, yet when she’s dismissed the first things she does is pick up her phone and so begins the vicious cycle. This time she becomes obsessed with Instgrammer Taylor Sloan (Elizabeth Olsen) and decides to move to LA so that the two of them can become friends, whether Taylor likes it or not.
Talk about something cool, like food or clothes or Joan Didion!
A first glace, Ingrid Goes West could have entered into some very clichéd areas. On the surface, this film is about issues that only millennials suffer from, especially since the advent of social media. Yet, Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith have managed to make a film that could speak to people from all walks of life, whether they use social media or not. Ingrid is suffering from severe mental illness and feels like she’s unable to connect with people as herself. Instagram is only the tool that worsens her illness.
Aubrey Plaza, simply put, is perfect as Ingrid. I really can’t imagine anyone else play Ingrid quite like Aubrey does. She has that sort of manic look and what people refer to as ‘crazy eyes’ that suit the character so well. This role was made for her. The same can be said about Elizabeth Olsen who is very believable as an LA girl with thousands of followers on Instagram who likes to share photos of her avocado toasts followed by the hashtag ‘blessed’ and some pray hands emojis for good measure. Her character, Taylor, is just as flawed as Ingrid’s and you get a sense of the dangers of social media on both sides. Taylor is putting out an image of herself that she feels her followers would appreciate which means that she’s never really her real self.
Can we restart like a reboot?
Ingrid Goes West works on so many different levels. There are funny moments but in a cringy way. I found myself having to cover my eyes because I just couldn’t believe what the characters, mainly Ingrid, were doing. I associate this kind of comedy to that of The Office or Fawlty Towers. It’s funny, but perhaps your first reaction isn’t to laugh but to cringe with embarrassment.
However, I also found it to be deeply unnerving. It made me feel uncomfortable because this is something that could happen to anyone, and it probably happens to far more people than we realise. Ingrid manages to find out everything she needs to about Taylor because she posts so much online, including her location. This is what frightens me the most about social media. Privacy is dead and we’re to blame.
The film is also bolstered by some great performances from O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Dan Pinto (Ingrid’s ‘fake’ boyfriend), Wyatt Russell as Ezra, Taylor’s husband and Billy Magnussen as Taylor’s irritating brother, Nicky. Jackson Jr.’s Dan is another interesting character because he also tries to hide behind a persona, his just so happens to be DC Comics’ superhero, Batman. His issues are nowhere near as bad as Ingrid’s, yet they do lead to a very awkward role-playing sex scene.
Tell me Gotham needs me.
Ingrid Goes West is a rewarding experience and one which really makes you think. Spicer and Smith have successfully managed to represent all that’s wrong with social media, all whilst exploring issues of mental illness and people’s inability to be themselves in public. We all put on a front, and there are probably only a handful of people who know what we’re really like underneath.
Yet, this film explores what it’s like for the people who can’t handle being themselves, so much so that one of them resorts to using Instagram to stalk people and befriend them. This film stayed with me long after the credits rolled and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in this sort of subject matter.