Ingrid Goes West Review
Chances are you are reading this review on your phone, switching between tabs before disappearing off somewhere deeper into the net. Try as we might to deny it, most of us would feel lost without the comforting escape our smart phone provides. It’s a prism through which we increasingly view the world in both a literal and figurative sense, with social media feeding our need to record the human experience. But for some people it’s more than an escape. People like Ingrid Thorburn for example. The opening sequence of Ingrid Goes West shows everything we need to know about Ingrid's unstable state of mind, watching her fire off a can of mace and launch the c-bomb before we've even had a moment to catch our breath.
Matt Spicer's debut takes a scathing look at the obsessiveness that social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat readily encourage. Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) may be an extreme case but there will be plenty of people in the audience left squirming uncomfortably in their seats. After our demented introduction we catch up with Ingrid following her release from a psychiatric unit. The ‘friend’ she was fixated by is soon forgotten when Ingrid comes across Instagram influencer Taylor Stone (Elizabeth Olsen). Taylor’s account is a constant stream of #amazing snaps from her Cali lifestyle and Ingrid is hooked right in.
With a $60k inheritance windfall in her back pocket Ingrid heads off to Venice Beach faster than you can click 'like'. She rents a studio flat from the Batman infatuated Russell (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) and sets about tricking her way into Taylor's life. Despite her stalkerish tendencies Plaza manages to make Ingrid sympathetic enough for us to remain on her side, and watching her craft lie after lie taps into our own devilish fantasies. Soon enough she is Taylor's new BFF, getting snapped and tagged on her Insta page and partying into the early hours together. What Ingrid doesn't reckon on is Taylor's own shallowness and the arrival of her even more self-centred brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen).
Taking down the vapid personalities that dominate social media is something of an easy target but like all comedy, it comes down to the execution. Spicer and David Branson Smith’s script excels in that area, helped no end by a cast ready to eviscerate their character's personalities. The jokes naturally come through in the drama rather than setting up a stream of hit-and-miss punchlines. Just as importantly, despite their obvious flaws, neither Ingrid nor Taylor are demonised and turned into super-bitches we should despise. Olsen’s role doesn’t require her to be as comedic as Plaza’s but her comic timing is well-judged and she gives Taylor a surprisingly warmer edge. Jackson Jr. plays the nice guy and raises a few laughs with some Batman-inspired quips, while Billy Magnussen’s revels in Nicky's privileged party-boy image.
There will some left feeling more awkward than others as they walk away from the film but truths exist in Ingrid Goes West that apply to everyone. It's a reminder of just how empty much of social media can be, and how easily its users flip between being the manipulators to the manipulated. Having the opportunity to laugh at the way technology has turned us all into a bunch of blubbering idiots is something of a blessed relief. Ingrid is probably the last person on Earth who should have an Instagram account but without it we wouldn't be able to enjoy her totally #nightmare story.