It might be funny, were it not so painfully realistic.
Ingrid Goes West is director Matt Spicer’s first feature film, and is an amazing debut for the big screen. On first glance of the trailer, it’s easy to cringe at the concept, but after some thought it becomes apparent that few other releases in recent memory have managed to capture the life of Instagram-obsessed millennials quite like this.
Aubrey Plaza is Ingrid Thorburn: a recently orphaned twenty-something who relies on social media as a form of companionship – not exactly a wildly unknown characteristic in the modern age. After an initial encounter that reveals quite how psychotic Ingrid can be, a new obsession comes along in the form of Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). It turns out Taylor lives in Los Angeles, and is something of an Instagram celebrity. So, like the title infers, Ingrid goes West.
What proceeds is an amazingly witty social satire that has far too many recognisable characters in it to be comfortable. You’ve got Taylor’s brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen), who gets arrested by the cops when he’s not snorting lines of coke and flexing in a mirror. Taylor’s husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell), is a struggling artist in the sunshine city who, on the revelation that he owns a flip-phone, asserts “I just like my privacy sometimes.”
Then there’s Ingrid’s landlord, Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), who is perhaps the most grounded character in the ensemble. Like his idol Batman, Dan was orphaned at a young age and claims that he used to wear a cowl to school to feel comfort as a child – not hugely dissimilar from the masks the rest of the cast wear on their online profiles. All of these characters come together in a story which unfolds brilliantly; if a little predictably.
For all the great postmodernism that Ingrid Goes West injects into the stalker genre, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the first of its kind. The film borrows strongly from the likes of Single White Female, and is even as bold as to mention that thriller’s name in the script. This doesn’t detract from the enjoyment found in the relatively short run-time, though; the Instagram spin makes the plot feel noticeably fresh, despite its clear influences.
As always, Aubrey Plaza delivers a stellar performance in the leading role. Despite the unhinged, dangerous nature of her character, Ingrid still has a sympathetic quality to her. True, this is often just to ensnare those around her in her fantasy world of popularity and ‘likes’, but Plaza manages to nail the “Heyyyy”‘s and “Ohmigodddd”‘s just as well as anybody else.
Where the film surprised me was in how it manages to drill into the concept of social media in a way that doesn’t come across as archaic or condescending. The opening shot is literally of an Instagram feed, and yet it does a stellar job of dragging us into Ingrid’s world of obsession and digital fame. If you’ve ever felt bogged-down by a friend who insists on taking five selfies to edit the perfect one, then you need to see this.
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Somehow, Ingrid Goes West manages to satirise the Instagram age without coming across as condescending or archaic. It's a darkly hilarious film, and one which could go down as 2017's hidden gem.
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