Ingrid Thorburn is an unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing "likes" for meaningful relationships. Taylor Sloane is an Instagram-famous "influencer" whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid's latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to LA and manages to insinuate herself into the social media star's life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF.
More Than a Takedown of Insta-Fame and Avacado Toast
Ingrid Goes West may prove to be the King of Comedy of the millennial generation. It is a charring and incisive black comedy that smartly uses social media as a means to explore the darker side of human nature – obsession. Anchored by a savagely funny script and a pitch-perfect performance by Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West is the deviously wicked, unflinchingly bitter, infinitely quotable knockout comedy that at least this writer has been waiting for all year.
Ingrid Goes West follows an unhinged and frighteningly relatable social media stalker (Plaza) who finds a new obsession in the form of Instagram photographer and personality Taylor Sloane (Olsen). When Taylor likes one of her comments, Ingrid decides to cash what's left of her inheritance for a move to California. From there she insinuates herself into Taylor's life; trying desperately to assimilate to her new, chic So-Cal lifestyle while refusing the advances of her good-natured landlord Dan (Jackson).
The inner torment that plagues Ingrid has an everlasting presence. You can see it in her eyes, her mannerisms, the way she obsesses and thrusts herself through the plot. She remains for the most part, an enigma but not the kind you can find intriguing or sexy. She's more like a void; desperate to distract herself from whom she really is with imagined perfect lives and even more perfect photo filters. To the brilliantly vulnerable Dan, she's suspicious; to the vapid Taylor she becomes a monster. Who is she really? She may not even know.
Yet she's not exactly the epitome of an anti-social obsessive. She displays genuine emotional intelligence; even while getting caught up in her own whirlwind of manipulations. Her relationship with Dan provides a glimpse into what she's really about as well as affirmation that she wouldn't stop even if she wanted to. She's less Travis Bickle and more Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), hopelessly looking for love in all the wrong places; not a sociopath but a histrionic.
The satire of Ingrid Goes West has become a bit of a fault line between audiences, critics and critics of a certain age. Those inclined to think scrolling through your phone is an anti-social pastime are liable to think Ingrid Goes West pulls its punches. Ben Kenigsberg of the New York Times wrote the movie "comes close to saying something sharp but ultimately cops out in the end." Similarly Rex Reed muses Ingrid Goes West "looks more like a tweet than a movie".
I'd argue if you take away the trappings of modern technology Ingrid wouldn't cease to be, she'd simply latch onto and unhealthily exploit some other escape such as: radio (Play Misty for Me), books (Misery) or TV (King of Comedy). Sure it'd lack contemporary immediacy and older audiences wouldn't get that extra dopamine fix of laughing at "those stupid kids and their devices," but the painfully human insights would still be very much there.
Thus as much as some would like Ingrid Goes West to be a savage takedown of hashtags, Insta-fame and avocado toast, it'd be more accurate to call it a lampooning of human behavior. It aims its sights at the insidiousness of exclusion, and how the need for validation can turn toxic. Additionally it holds up a mirror not just on us in a general sense but holds it up to you and dares you to look into the void. In the case of this movie the void looks like Aubrey Plaza. I suppose there are worse things in the world.
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