Ingrid Goes West is a darkly funny and genuinely sad film. Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid, a woman who doesn’t know what’s wrong with her or how to fix it. She starts the film in a very low place having recently lost her mother and isolated herself from her “best friend”. During her slump she notices social media star Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). As a beacon of easy going, self-assured confidence, Ingrid becomes obsessed and believes the only way to solve her problems is to become Taylor’s best friend at any cost.
It’s a movie about how vulnerable we make ourselves online and the risks of doing so. It’s the first movie, I think, that truly captures the anxiety of social media: seeing snapshots of the lives of others, sending messages and waiting for the person to see it, leaving too many voicemail messages, checking your phone too often. The loneliness of the modern “connected” person is very relatable.
But this is a comedy! And a very funny one too. The comedy comes from the absurdity of the plugged in L.A. trendy scene and the cringe inducing awkwardness of Ingrid’s actions. I’ve never fared well with cringe comedy, luckily the former remedies the latter. After all, how humiliated can any one person be when everyone is ridiculous? The parody is incredibly well observed. Something of our generation has been very accurately captured and satirised in this film.
This could also have been a failing of Ingrid Goes West. If the satire of LA culture had been the sole priority of the film then the characters would have been simple and hollow. Luckily these characters are very well realised. Everyone is masking their own private anxieties behind the hollowness of the culture. Every character is just trying to be a part of something and connect with someone. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is particularly excellent as Dan, the well-meaning, Batman obsessed landlord who gets roped into Ingrid’s lies.
Aubrey Plaza’s very capably carries the film. Her sense of longing feels truly credible. There’s tremendous pathos to her sadness and great expressiveness in her comedic scenes. Any suggestion that she’s only capable of playing the mopey April Ludgate in the sitcom Parks and Recreations should be definitively dismissed. She’s very impressive in this.
I imagine the ending will be controversial. The movie falls short of fully condemning Ingrid’s actions, which may lead some to find the ending distasteful. Personally, I felt it represented the natural crescendo to the movie’s meditation on obsessive social media use, and should definitely not be seen as a vindication of Ingrid’s actions.
The direction and pacing is that of a psychological thriller and I really did find myself drawn into the narrative. This is a very dark comedy that really pulls you along on its upsetting and hilarious journey.
4 / 5
Paul Salt is the co-host of the podcast One Good Thing.