Synopsis: An unhinged social media stalker moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star. (Source)
The person we stare at in the mirror rarely aligns with who we present to the world. Even before social media, keeping a balance between these two selves was difficult. In the #LOL age, likes, comments and shares are single-serving ego strokes that enable embellished facade over genuine connection. How can anything last when friendships fade faster than fleeting viral trends? With these ideas firmly at its core, Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West is about the digital Catch-22. Technology keeps us at a click’s distance, but are we connecting to reality, or curated fantasy? Spicer’s film encapsulates a culture hurtling towards oblivion, a satiric Single White Female that’s hilarious until it hurts too much to laugh. Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen light up the screen, playing two sides of the same coin who only appear to be perfect BFFs. With its sly subversion and sharp humor, Ingrid Goes West is the wake up call for a society on the brink of social suicide.
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) suffers two massive blows at once; the death of her mother, and the loss of an internet bestie. After an asylum stint, social media personality Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) catches Ingrid’s eye, and she instantly signs back on to Instagram. Following a stray comment, Ingrid vows to become Taylor’s BFF. Ingrid then tracks Taylor’s geotags, moving to Los Angeles, tracing her hero’s Insta recommendations and her every move. A dubious opportunity soon allows for the two to meet, but Ingrid has to learn the hard way that not everyone is who they appear to be.
The clever thing about Spicer’s film, is that its message is twofold. This isn’t just about the inability to find a voice of our own, it’s also about the complacency that comes with living a lie. In this way, the film transforms as Ingrid learns about the true Taylor, the one hidden behind emojis, hashtags, yes men and Insta love. As Taylor’s real world comes to light, Ingrid is faced with the implications of the lies she tells herself. Reality clashes with expectation, hyperbole is just a facade, and a legion of emotional vampires devour themselves with every cultural remix. Though the message here isn’t anything new, Spicer’s film forces us to confront what we’d rather sweep under the rug. As if that weren’t enough, the film sprinkles in mental illness, complicating the line between Ingrid’s fractured realities and her thirst for acceptance.
I realize I’ve made the film sound a bit dour, but you can bet the cast keeps things lively, walking a tightrope of dark inner turmoil and colorful personas. As Ingrid, Aubrey Plaza is multi-faceted, endearing and packed with oddball charm. There’s also a vulnerability we’ve never seen from her before. Plaza is a perfect reflection of the film’s satiric humor, playing things straight and finding laughs through insecurity and a mounting collection of lies. As Taylor, Elizabeth Olsen finds a way to make her character feel like a modern day deity. Through Taylor, Olsen exudes perfection, but every once in a while, we get a peak beneath well hidden cracks. Olsen feels like she’s larger than life, but also crying for help. Though these two women are the film’s anchor, O’Shea Jackson Jr nearly steals the show. Jackson’s Dan Pinto is the most grounded, a Batman-obsessed, aspiring screenwriter who oozes with charisma and burns up the screen. Constantly trying to win Ingrid’s affection and having no problem commanding a room, Jackson is always a winning presence. Wyatt Russell, Pom Klementieff and Billy Magnussen round out the cast with smaller, but memorable contributions.
Ingrid Goest West is a pitch perfect encapsulation of now, a world where its hard to separate fact from fiction, and where who we pretend to be is inextricable from who we are. Our modern duality has never been more sobering. Despite how amusing the film can be, there’s a keen sense of horror behind the laughs, making for a call for help that couldn’t be more timely.