Director: Matt Spicer
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff
Plot: A mentally unstable girl (Plaza) obsesses over Taylor Sloane (Olsen) on Instagram, worming her way into her life to be part of her perfect world.
I am a very big defender of social media, someone who is making the most out of his hobbies of writing and acting through marketing my projects online. This very blog is an example of how connecting to a wider audience through social media can be a great thing. However, there are dark sides to social media. Matt Spicer’s delightful indie thriller is a great tale about a woman who gets lost in the vastness of Instagram.
Right from the off, Instagram is seen as a very dangerous thing. Spicer is clever in where he targets his satire, knowing that Instagram, in itself, is not the problem. He focuses mainly on Aubrey Plaza’s bored drifter, who is desperately attached to her mobile phone. We are introduced to this woman, as she leaves a psychiatric rehab centre after she attacks a woman she follows on Instagram, building up such an intense imaginary friendship with this woman she had never met that she felt rejected and scorned when she didn’t get an invite to the wedding. As Plaza leaves the ward, she instantly dives for her phone and begins sinking into social media again. She has learned absolutely nothing. Spicer follows this moment up with a montage to show just how easy it is to be casually sucked into the world of Instagram. It is only a button away and Plaza’s character, Ingrid, finds herself scrolling through an endless Instagram feed, getting absorbed in these people’s lives and taking in everything they do. You get the impression that Ingrid doesn’t even realise she is trapped and when she falls for Elizabeth Olsen’s Taylor Sloane, an Instagram celebrity who appears to have the perfect life, she has accidentally wandered too deep down the rabbit hole to pull herself out. Ingrid, with a newly-inherited fortune and absolutely nothing left of her tattered life, makes her entire existence a mission to get close to Sloane. The sad truth is that Ingrid doesn’t ever seem like a girl with a plan. She just wants to get herself as close to perfection as possible to make her own life seem that little bit more worthwhile. She moves to the same neighbourhood as Sloane and begins using her Instagram feed to shadow her life (ordering the same food, buying from the same restaurants). Her money is spent on useless possessions. Her time is wasted. O’Shea Jackson Jr stars as her attractive and charismatic landlord, who is clearly Spicer’s way of telling the audience that Ingrid has this great life waiting for her if she would just wake up and take it. Instead, she gets so lost in this pointless little deception she is telling herself that it consumes her. Ingrid Goes West is a case of the audience, watching Ingrid build up this tower of pointless, petty lies and wondering at exactly what point this tower of dishonesty will begin to crumble down on top of her. The final scene is a clever answer to all that, arguably a happy ending, but also definitely not a clear fix to the problem. Another day, another rabbit hole…
Spicer has this great story, but it is down to his casting and characterisation that really makes Ingrid Goes West a strong product. This is a film that might get missed by audiences, because it sounds like the kind of movie that would be stacked with stereotypes. Shallow Instagram models, crazy stalker women, millennials… but Spicer holds back from poking too much fun at his caricatures. The characters in Ingrid Goes West are definitely far from stable human beings, most of the characters not holding what you would call proper jobs. Taylor Sloane makes her money from being popular on Instagram, getting paid to pose with clothes, coffee shops and attend parties. Her boyfriend is an artist who is so wrapped up in his authentic nature that he refuses to advertise his paintings, therefore not making any money from his work. O’Shea Jackson Jr is a wannabe writer, trying to get his Batman fan fiction off the ground. And Ingrid, herself, is living off a quickly-dwindling inheritance. So far we have a script that sounds packed with hateable characters. But the actors are too good to let that happen. Elizabeth Olsen is probably the stand-out, taking the kind of character usually built into an easy-to-hate stereotype and adds warmth. She might drift through life, but she never seems cruel from her popularity. Her only crime is not quite realising how lucky she is. The only time the airhead comes through is in a smattering of well-told jokes. The funniest joke in the whole movie sees Olsen ask a garage employee to take a quick photo of her, only for the employee to spend an hour of his life angling up that perfect photo. Aubrey Plaza is also happy to have a role as complex as Ingrid. Plaza is the kind of actress who is often lumped with the embarrassingly sexualised role. Bad Grandpa was a particularly cringe-worthy example of an actress accepting whatever roles came her way. Finally, with Ingrid, Plaza has a role that shows everyone both her comedic talents, but also her aptitude as an actress. This is also an important role for O’Shea Jackson Jr, who steps away from his type-casting of Ice Cube’s son and becomes a figure in his own right. Altogether Ingrid Goes West finds the best of both worlds: a shocking look at the downfalls of social media used by a millennial generation, as well as an interesting character piece about a girl on the edge of a breakdown.
Final Verdict: Ingrid Goes West feels like it could have been a disaster, but Spicer holds it together brilliantly with a great cast and sharp writing.