Comedy Drama

'Ingrid Goes West' Film Review: ‘Single White Female’ for the social media age

August 18, 2017Justin Waldman

In Ingrid Goes West, Aubrey Plaza delivers a performance unlike anything we’ve seen from her thus far. Her character, Ingrid Thorburn, suffers from mental illness, deals with severe emotional and personal issues, and is just trying to make a life for herself. Director Matt Spicer’s movie is daunting, ingenious, and at moments downright hysterical, making it one of the more well-rounded films to come out this year.

The film begins with Ingrid crashing the wedding of a friend — or so we’re made to think — whom she was casually creeping on Instagram, a scene that ends with her pepper-spraying the bride in the face. This in turn leads to her brief residency in a psychiatric ward, as she tries to get her life back in order and get her situation sorted out. During this period, the audience learns that Ingrid and the bride were never actually acquainted, and that the only reason Ingrid knew the bride was due to a comment on one of her Instagram posts, which led Ingrid to insert herself into the woman’s life.

Moving past the devastation of losing her only “friend,” Ingrid stumbles into some money and happens upon a magazine article spotlighting social media/Instagram star Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Ingrid decides to move out to the west coast with her newfound wealth, rents a room from Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and proceeds to stalk her new, unsuspecting BFF. Will Ingrid be able to stealthily maneuver her way into Sloane’s life, or will her profound jealousy, creepiness and constant need to be the center of attention be her ultimate downfall?

For a film that focuses on someone who is constantly driven by her own insecurities to find a new “best friend,” Ingrid Goes West definitely needed a strong actor in the lead role. Thankfully, Aubrey Plaza breaks her mold of playing the same type of character she usually plays — not that there’s anything wrong with that — by delivering a more fleshed-out performance that gives insight into the mental well-being of her character, as well as her motivations.

The script by Spicer and David Branson Smith opens audiences’ eyes to what this modern era has done to everyone. We all have a social media facade — an online persona different from our real life personalities. Sometimes the changes are minuscule, while other times they are vast. But even though our online personas should not define who we are, the norms of this current day and age dictate that how we represent ourselves online is how the world — strangers, future employers, future dates and so forth — will view us. Our online presence has become a defining factor in our everyday lives, and as a result, we are no longer seen as flesh-and-blood individuals, but rather as reflections of our digital profiles.

Moreover, Olsen’s portrayal of Sloane is the embodiment of the lives of actual Instagram celebrities. As Ezra O’Keefe (Wyatt Russell), Sloane’s boyfriend, says, “everything is always the best,” which perfectly captures how we perceive these Insta-stars’ lives. They’re always invited to exclusive parties, always have the best clothes, and always go the best restaurants. And so we all want their lives. Olsen’s portrayal of her character nails that notion to a tee, and it helps push the movie even further, because in reality, we all want a little slice of glory. Unfortunately, however, Jackson is underutilized in the film. He plays the landlord/boyfriend role throughout, and his only purpose in the narrative is seemingly to help propel the story forward, but nothing more.

The result is a sobering, cautionary tale of just how much information we should disclose on social media, as well as a powerful awakening as to how easy it is for people to insert themselves into the lives of others by what we may consider mere coincidence, but which actually masks more calculating and methodical means. A downright dark and subversive comedy with a powerful message and bolstered by powerful performances, Ingrid Goes West truly should not go unnoticed.

Ingrid Goes West releases August 18th, 2017 from Mongrel Media. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content and disturbing behavior. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 37 Mins.

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