Social media has changed how we live. It’s also constantly changing celebrity. A whole batch of young folks have been propelled to a certain form a stardom based solely on their social media presence. They have fans and admirers that like their posts and often don’t realize that these social media stars are being paid by various companies to promote their products. The new film from director Matt Spicer, Ingrid Goes West, finds the dark side of the emergence of the social media celebrity with a dark comedy that comes across like The King of Comedy for the Instagram age.
The film opens by looking at the Instagram posts of a young woman, her voiceover reading the text right down to whatever emojis and hashtags accompany the posts. This young woman is posting pictures of her wedding on social media and not far away a teary eyed Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is obsessively looking over each picture. She emerges from her car and proceeds to pepper spray the bride. The next we see of Ingrid, she’s being treated at a mental health facility before being discharged by to her life which has been painfully lonely since the passing of her mother. Ingrid soon finds a new obsession in Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a young social media star who projects this majestic lifestyle in Southern California. Using the $60,000 left to her from her mother, Ingrid travels to Venice Beach in the hopes of becoming a real life friend for her social media obsession.
Ingrid creepily patrols Taylor’s Instagram posts and the location settings allows Ingrid to easily find what shops and restaurants her prey frequents. She rents a room in Venice from Dan (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), a Batman obsessed aspiring screenwriter. Ingrid stalks Taylor and her husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell) from a distance until she’s found a way to enter their lives. While they married couple were out on the town, Ingrid breaks into their small home and kidnaps their dog only to promptly return the pooch once the missing signs have been posted around the neighborhood. It doesn’t take long for Ingrid to mold herself into what she thinks Taylor wants in a friend, and the stalker has squeezed her way into the good graces of Taylor and Ezra.
The character of Ingrid is a fascinating creation by Matt Spicer and co-writer David Branson Smith. They’re able to craft a character that is obviously suffering from some kind of mental illness and yet are still able to craft plenty of laughs out of her bad behavior, which only escalates as the film progresses. Aubrey Plaza gives the finest performance of her career to date as the obsessive and suffering Ingrid. Between the strong script and the powerful performance, you’re able to get deep into the mind of Ingrid, allowing us to understand her actions even if we don’t necessarily sympathize.
The comedy of Ingrid Goes West isn’t simply limited to the depraved actions of its main character. The film also takes aim at much of millennial culture, such as the astoundingly absurd artwork that Ezra makes. In other instances, the faux sophistication of Taylor is often lampooned in a sharp manner that allows nobody to come out of this movie unscathed. There’s also plenty of humor to be found in O’Shea Jackson’s great performance as Dan, and his Batman obsession that knows no bounds.
Matt Spicer isn’t afraid to delve into the darker aspects of its scenario, and that really comes across in the final act when Ingrid is driven mad with jealousy when Taylor’s douchebag brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen) enters the picture. The cocky brother ribs the new friend of his sister and then tension mounts and mounts into a truly shocking moment, one that won’t be spoiled here but also one that doesn’t unfold as you might expect. Ingrid Goes West fully capitalizes on its premise in every facet from its more twisted aspects to its vibrant work of visual storytelling.
Ingrid Goes West is a movie for its time and place. Ingrid Thorburn is a Rupert Pupkin for the modern era. From start to finish, Ingrid Goes West is wildly entertaining with its scathing sense of humor permeating through every from of Matt Spicer’s dark comedy. Aubrey Plaza has never been better and this may very well be the performance that defines her career, taking her away from the surly archetype that she’s been since Parks and Rec. After Ingrid Goes West, you’ll never look at those Instagram posts the same.