Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language throughout, Drug Use, some Sexual Content and Disturbing Behavior
Directed by: Matt Spicer
Written by: David Branson Smith & Matt Spicer
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen & Pom Klementieff
Social media can be a wonderful outlet for expressing yourself, gaining free promotion for your business, and reaching lots of people on a daily basis. However, social networks can also severely mess with emotions as you watch the seemingly perfect lives of other people and compare your own imperfect existence to the happy faces they upload to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. INGRID GOES WEST is a comedy-drama that very squarely narrows into the darker side of social media and how it can severely mess with people, causing them to do some pretty crazy things. This film is basically a humorous version of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE…but with less blood and more hashtags.
Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is a lonely, mentally unstable young woman in search of love and good friends. However, she seems too damn socially awkward and weird to make them through conventional means. So Ingrid takes to Instagram where she mistakes passing anonymous “Likes” for friendship. After crashing a wedding and spending time in a psych ward, Ingrid finds her newest obsession in LA-based Instagram star Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Armed with a bag of inherited cash, Ingrid goes west (see what I did there?) and calculatedly inserts herself into Taylor’s life as her new best friend. However, Ingrid’s newfound friendship begins to crack as her lies stack up, her stalker behavior comes dangerously close to being revealed, and Taylor’s suspicious brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen) takes an immediate disliking to her.
The best thing in INGRID GOES WEST is easily Aubrey Plaza’s performance as the titular protagonist. Though Plaza’s work seems to be hit-or-miss, she does have a knack for being very funny in the right roles. Ingrid Thorburn is definitely the juiciest character that Plaza has been handed as she’s allowed to emote and also thrives on the film’s pitch-black sense of humor. Ingrid may have psychopathic tendencies (like photographing every single item in Taylor’s bathroom or pepper-spraying a woman on her wedding day), but she is painted as a tragic/sympathetic soul. Plaza makes you care about Ingrid, even as you’re watching her self-destructive choices and actions that frequently fly off the rails as she attempts to emotionally manipulate those around her.
INGRID’s supporting cast are immensely talented as well. Elizabeth Olsen plays Taylor as an artsy hipster type, who doesn’t exactly seem like the sharpest tool in the shed. The film also wisely mocks Taylor’s shallow Instagram lifestyle in a similar way to how it examines Ingrid’s social media obsession. Wyatt Russell (who many will recognize from the PLAYTEST episode of BLACK MIRROR) does well in his screen time as Taylor’s mostly down-to-earth husband. O’Shea Jackson truly shines as Ingrid’s concerned landlord/love interest. Though his Batman obsession seems like it’s an annoying cheap joke at times, Jackson’s character provides a somewhat moral voice of levity to Ingrid’s faulty logic. Billy Magnussen is also a lot of fun to watch as Ingrid’s recovering drug addict brother and serves as a believably obnoxious douchebag.
As far as INGRID’s technical side is concerned, this film looks great. The vibrant visuals really bring the LA atmosphere to life and that goes a long way on selling its story of Instagram stars and obsessive stalkers. The pacing mostly feels natural too as there’s an almost thriller-like quality to the film’s escalating suspense, but things are kept firmly in the realm of dark comedy and quirky drama. My only complaint stems from a couple of points made about Ingrid’s backstory that could have been further explored, but weren’t seemingly for the sake of keeping this film’s running time around 90 minutes.
If you enjoy Aubrey Plaza, crazy social media stories (as we’ve seen plenty of those in the past few years and they keep on coming), and darkly comic takes on thriller-like material, then INGRID GOES WEST was tailor-made for your taste. This is a very funny, surprisingly emotional (especially in its ending), and compelling dark drama-comedy. If that sounds up your alley, then you should definitely give INGRID GOES WEST a watch, a like, a social media post, and a hashtag.