Narcissism at Its Finest
Social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook can be a great way to stay in touch with people and share experiences with friends and family (and strangers). Social media can also become an addiction as users obsess over “likes,” followers and comments. Recent studies have shown correlations with heavy social media usage and increased anxiety and depression. The pitfalls of living your life online are at the heart of Ingrid Goes West, where one woman’s obsession with social media and her quest for acceptance dominates every aspect of her life.
This dark-comedy drama focuses on Ingrid Thornburn (Aubrey Plaza, The Little Hours, 2016), a young woman with an unhealthy attachment to social media. In fact, the film opens with her crying while scrolling through the Instagram account of a young woman who is getting ready for her wedding. At the actual wedding reception, Ingrid crashes the event and attacks the bride with mace while screaming obscenities all due to her not being invited. While recovering at a mental hospital, Ingrid writes an apology letter to the bride, and we discover that Ingrid’s mother has recently died.
After being released from the hospital, Ingrid is spotted at the grocery store by a young woman on her phone, who was a wedding guest. She sees Ingrid at the register and describes to a friend over the phone that Ingrid cyber-stalked the bride after she liked one of Ingrid’s comments, but they never met in real life. A furious and embarrassed Ingrid keys that woman’s car on her way out. Once she gets home, Ingrid scrolls through Instagram where she finds the account of Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olson, Captain America: Civil War, 2016), a lifestyle influencer whose “welltaylored” Instagram account has a massive following. Ingrid is enamored with Taylor’s perfect life (as it appears on Instagram) and with her $62,000 inheritance from her mother’s death, she heads to L.A. to find Taylor.
Ingrid quickly finds an apartment in Venice and sparks a friendly relationship with her landlord, Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Straight Outta Compton, 2016). After getting a makeover – transforming from a brunette to a blonde, and buying a number of designer items that Taylor ‘loves’ on Instagram, Ingrid goes off to pursue a new best friend. Since Taylor is always posting about her whereabouts, Ingrid is able to find her at a local boutique where they have an awkward interaction. Ingrid tails Taylor home and then tricks her way into Taylor’s life by kidnapping and returning her dog. Taylor and her husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell, Table 19, 2016) insist that if she won’t accept cash, they will make her a nice dinner in return for finding their dog. Ingrid is obsessed with their chic-L.A. style and does everything in her power to further weasel into their lives. Her plans work for a bit, but she eventually struggles to keep the attention of Taylor, who as a social media ‘influencer’ has her own agenda to be seen at the coolest spots with the right people. Further complicating Ingrid’s plans are the arrival of Taylor’s wild and obnoxious brother Nick (Bill Magnussen, The Big Short, 2016) who doesn’t trust Ingrid and mockingly refers to her as Olga.
Overall, Ingrid Goes West takes a lot of humorous shots at millennials and their addictions to phones as well the social media celebrity culture. Plaza does a respectable job as the lead role, although her character is so awkward and manic that it can make audiences uncomfortable at times, which is really a testament to her performance. Elizabeth Olson, who is famously the younger sister of the Olson twins, is also well cast in her role as the self-absorbed social media maven, who can be superficial, but at the same time seem fun and endearing. Although Wyatt Russell (the son of Kurt Russell) doesn’t get enough screen time, he is humorous in a tongue-in-cheek way as he satirizes wannabe celebrity culture.
The one big issue with this film is the third act of the script. Without giving too much away, the plot eventually gets a little out of control and doesn’t mesh with the rest of the film’s tone. It’s unfortunate because overall, the script has much to say about the challenges of social media and staying true to yourself. This message may become lost in the last 30 minutes though.
The film was directed by Matt Spicer who previously directed shorts and who co-wrote the film with David Brandon Smith. For a pair who have never written or made a full-length feature, they’ve certainly created a movie that has a lot of strong points, but their inexperience shows at times, especially with the overly chaotic ending of the film.
Bottom Line: Although Ingrid Goes West has its flaws, the message is timely in today’s tech-obsessed world and a good reminder that while social media has its benefits, it also can be a shallow and unfulfilling way to focus your energy.
Credits: Written by David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer; Directed by Matt Spicer
Cast: Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Thorburn), Elizabeth Olson (Taylor Sloane), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Dan Pinto), Wyatt Russell (Ezra O’Keefe), Billy Magnussen (Nickey Sloane)
Running Time: 97 minutes
Jessica DeLong © September 2, 2017