Set on the sunny California coast, director Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West is a dark critique of social media that manages to hit its mark, despite some minor flaws.
Aubrey Plaza (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, NBC’s Parks and Recreation) stars as Ingrid Thorburn, a mentally unstable woman with a tendency to mistake comments and “likes” for genuine friendships and relationships. After inheriting a large sum of money, Ingrid decides to leave her old life behind and move to California to befriend Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Instagram model with a seemingly perfect life.
Olsen deserves credit for her solid performance as Taylor, though the standout is O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) who steals every minute he is on screen for as Ingrid’s Batman-obsessed landlord, Dan. His character is a welcome breath of authenticity in a story filled to the brim with characters trying to be something they’re not. His performance is even more impressive considering it’s only his second major acting role.
Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid is a captivating spectacle. Even when Ingrid’s actions are predictably misguided, she is fascinating. Plaza has a wonderful physicality to her performance – for a character that exists so tenuously in the world outside her smart phone, she fills every space she is in and uses every inch of her surroundings. For as interesting as she is to watch, Ingrid Goes West never gives the audience any real reason to connect with Ingrid or root for her. At times, it isn’t clear if she is meant to be sympathetic or simply to function as a parody of lonely people who can’t differentiate between Instagram and the real world. The end result is more like watching a science experiment than a human being’s emotional journey.
Ingrid Goes West is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but it does offer a sharp satire of the social media era. Like it or not, we live in an era of Instagram and avocado toast where real connections are often thrust aside in favour of hashtags and emojis. Ingrid Goes West doesn’t pull any punches in its harsh depiction of hipster culture and the artificial relationships that can be forged online.
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