We’ve all done it (well, most of us).
Late night social media stalking of it-girls and pseudo-celebrities that keep us up way past our bedtime, dreaming of what life would be like if we could live a day in their shoes. In a time where studies have proven that an unhealthy attachment to social media can lead to depression and a false sense of reality, the award-winning Sundance film Ingrid Goes West is a #nofilter look at modern day superficiality in the digital age, perpetuated by one of social media’s most popular apps: Instagram.
Directed by L.A. transplant Matt Spicer, this dark comedy is centered around a mentally unstable twenty-something, Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza), a social media stalker who confuses “likes” for authentic relationships. Reaching out to a Venice Beach-dwelling “influencer”, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), after she responded to one of Ingrid’s comments, Ingrid sets her sights on becoming Taylor’s best friend IRL (in real life). Ingrid moves to California and, after having tracked Taylor’s every move, fashion choice, and food preference, she finally meets her idol- determined to become her new BFF.
Because of “coincidental” shared interests and hobbies, Taylor quickly invites Ingrid into her world with trips to Joshua Tree as well as tripping on acid, and to her inner circle as she meets Taylor’s hippy boyfriend Ezra (Wyatt Russell) and her eccentric brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen). This quickly solidifies the relationship between the two girls, however, like all things fake and phony, both of their true colors start to seep through their heavily filtered exteriors, proving that no one is as perfect or flawless as they claim to be on Instagram.
However, like all things fake and phony, both of their true colors start to shine through their heavily filtered exterior, proving that no one is as perfect, or accurate, as they claim to be on Instagram.
Ingrid goes crazy in Ingrid Goes West and Aubrey Plaza’s performance is a delicately tactile force to be reckoned with. Best known for her lack of empathy and deadpan emotion in films such as The Little Hours and the TV hit Parks & Rec, here, Plaza leaves the emo at the door and fully checks into the looney bin. She balances Ingrid’s mental illness with both sympathy and vulnerability so as not to come across as cartoonish or unrelatable, and we can’t get enough.
The rest of the cast successfully adds to the film’s humor and appeal. Ingrid’s neighbor/Batman-obsessed boyfriend Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) is the dependable comedic relief in every scene, due in large part to the fact that he is the only one seemingly grounded in reality.
Elizabeth Olsen transforms into the wellness advocate and avocado toast-eating enthusiast you love to hate. Every Los Angeles stereotype you can think of, the good, the bad, and the ugly, are on satirical display and we laugh at them until we realize we either A) know someone just like them, or B) recognize some of their qualities in ourselves. And that is the genius of Ingrid Goes West.
Director Matt Spicer definitely has something special here- together with screenwriter David Branson Smith, they have created what may be the most relevant film for millennials in 2017. While the actual events may be contemporary and generational, the message behind Ingrid Goes West could very well stand as a timeless folklore for future generations.
“Ingrid Goes West” is rated R for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content and disturbing behavior. 97 minutes. Opening this Friday at ArcLight Hollywood.