Ingrid Goes West
Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Ingrid is an unbalanced woman who becomes infatuated with an Instagram celebrity in the funny and satirical dark comedy Ingrid Goes West.
At the start of the film, Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza, best known as Parks and Recreation’s lovable misanthrope April Ludgate) is in a mental hospital due to an incident at the wedding of a women she became obsessed with on Instagram. After being released, she reads a magazine article about Taylor Sloane (Elisabeth Olsen from last week’s excellent Wind River), a photographer with tons of Instagram followers. After Taylor innocently responds to a comment Ingrid left on one of her photos, Ingrid decides to take all the money her recently deceased mother left her and move to Venice, California. Once there, she plots to insinuate herself into Taylor’s life.
The screenplay for Ingrid Goes West (co-written by David Branson Smith and director Matt Spicer) is very insightful about the culture that could create someone like Ingrid. She is lonely and depressed and feels she is inferior. What she thinks will cure her is being popular on social media. It will mean she has been accepted. She becomes obsessed with Taylor because she thinks Taylor’s life is perfect. She does not just want to be a part of Taylor’s life, she wants to become like Taylor. Elisabeth Olsen is great as a woman whose job is to portray someone living a perfect life 24/7. Who Taylor really is remains something of a mystery because Ingrid does not care. She needs Taylor to be that person because she needs to be that person.
Aubrey Plaza’s awkward, sarcastic humor is put to good use here. Ingrid is uncomfortable in social situations, like she is always afraid she is about to be rejected. Plaza is effective as a woman easily trapped between being the person she wants people to think she is and the insecure little girl she feels like.
In fact, all of the major roles are very well cast. Wyatt Russell as Taylor’s artist husband Ezra is outwardly happy and friendly. He and Olsen are good at playing a certain kind of couple that want you to know how easy it is for them to be happy together. O’Shea Jackson Jr. (in only his second role after playing his own father, Ice Cube, in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton) is likable and very funny (he has all the best jokes) as Ingrid’s landlord Dan, a Batman-loving aspiring screenwriter. These guys as well as Taylor’s obnoxious brother (well-played by Billy Magnussen, from last week’s terrible Birth of the Dragon) are well-written as a counterpoint to Ingrid and, in a way, Taylor. They (especially Dan) seem perfectly comfortable being who they are.
Ingrid Goes West (93 minutes minus the end credits) could have become a dark comedy version of Single White Female. Instead, it is a character study as well as a commentary on what some people believe is truly important in the age of social media. Spicer, making his directorial debut, does an excellent job of balancing tones. It would have been very easy to turn Ingrid into a grotesque or to make her the object of the film’s humor, but that does not happen here. She is troubled, but the screenplay never pushes that too far. She is not crazy, just extremely desperate.
The comedy never overwhelms the drama and the satire is there, but not pounded into the story with a hammer. Ingrid Goes West is neither moving nor emotionally revealing. It isn’t trying to be. What it is trying to do is look at a darker side of our cultural obsession with “likes” and “followers” and our need to share our entire lives with complete strangers over the internet. At that, it is pretty successful.
4 out of 5
Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn
Elisabeth Olsen as Taylor Sloane
O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Dan Pinto
Wyatt Russell as Ezra O’Keefe
Billy Magnussen as Nicky Sloane
Pom Klementieff as Harley Chung
Directed by Matt Spicer
Written by David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer