"You are, by far the coolest, most interesting person I have ever met." - Ingrid Thorburn
The darkest of dark comedies, Ingrid Goes West is a fierce satire that deserves a larger audience.
It is easy to see how this film missed mainstream success upon release. It appears to have been marketed somewhat as a broad comedy, yet the movie is seriously dark - probably too heavy for most people. It featured a neon-lettered Margarita-Ville-inspired movie poster that promised wackiness and belly laughs. There's comedy here, for sure. But I can imagine that most who saw the movie poster (in person or online) expected something completely different.
Ingrid Goes West is more about delving into some serious, dark stuff. The main character, Ingrid Thorburn (played with precision by Aubrey Plaza), is a young gal struggling with mental illness. She mistakes an Instagram "like" for a true friendship, then attacks the Insta friend with Mace simply for not inviting her to her wedding.
Hospitalized, the released when her mother passes away, she begins stalking another Instagram star, Taylor Sloane (played to perfection by Elizabeth Olsen). She steals Taylor's dog, then "finds him" to become Taylor's friend. Ingrid attempts to ingratiate herself into Taylor Sloane's "perfect" Venice Beach life. Like the film itself, her process is awkward and uncomfortable yet fascinating to watch, and, in the end, Ingrid Goes West delivers a satisfying dose of social media satire.
Plaza does a remarkable job of portraying the unstable Ingrid, a young girl that some have suggested has a borderline personality disorder. A handful of critics have suggested that Ingrid Goes West is insensitive to those with mental illness. But the story itself (of a stalker who doesn't grasp the boundaries of reality) would require the character to be of poor mental health, and the main character's actions and behavior seem consistent. In my opinion, Ingrid Goes West pushes that envelope as far as possible, but it doesn't go too far. Others may differ, so it's essential to put that out there.
My interpretation of viewing this dark satire is that Ingrid is a victim of the system. Ingrid is a human that needs the attention and assistance of a real community as a whole, something that social media can never provide. The true friendship that Ingrid develops with her landlord, struggling screenwriter Dan Pinto (played by O'Shea Jackson), showcases this. He is an authentic person willing to see her as she is. Dan is offering a real relationship, yet she is obsessed with, and prefers, a fake social media-based friendship structure instead.
The script for Ingrid Goes West is remarkably tight for a first-time feature writer/director. You have no idea where the plot is going, especially when Sloane's brother Nicky shows up out of nowhere. He is a complete monster, and his emergence successfully spins the film in another direction.
The acting performances by Plaza, Olsen, and Jackson are stellar, and the direction by Matt Spicer is first-rate. While some may feel that the film's ending is a bit of a cop-out, the underlying message (Instagram is not a healthy place for some people) is sadly more vital than ever. Ingrid Goes West is an engaging, under-the-radar dark comedy worth seeking out. (B)
Directed by Matt Spicer
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Billy Magnussen, Wyatt Russell, Pom Klementieff, O'Shea Jackson Jr.
Genres: Drama, Comedy
Photo Credit: Neon