Director: Matt Spicer
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Billy Magnussen
Running Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: 17th November
Ingrid Goes West is a film that crawls under your skin. Writer-director Matt Spicer has created a tale that is uncomfortably enjoyable, a satirical take on today’s social media-driven society that is both dark and timely.
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) has just been released from a psychiatric facility and moves to LA using her inheritance from the death of her mother. She ingratiates herself into the life of social media influencer Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen). When Taylor’s brother Nick (a delightfully creepy Billy Magnussen) comes to visit and threatens the friendship that Ingrid has built with Taylor, events take an intensely dark turn.
It would have been easy to make this film simply a Single White Female narrative for the Instagram generation. Instead, there is a nuanced examination of social media, the role it plays in our lives and how it can influence how we perceive and connect with people. There are still thematic nods to Single White Female, but by making Ingrid the primary character, we can’t help but empathise with her despite being unnerved by her actions. Seeing the story develop from her perspective makes her an empathetic, though an undeniably problematic character. She befriends Taylor by stalking her before stealing then ‘finding’ her pet dog. She takes advantage of her kind, trusting landlord Dan (a scene-stealing O’Shea Jackson Jr).
Despite this, we still root for Ingrid to sort out her problems. She is portrayed as a desperately lonely girl who does not know how to interact with the world around her. This is largely due to Plaza’s talented and complex performance. She balances humour, pathos and a consistent undercurrent of unbalance perfectly. It is clear that Ingrid is interpreting social media interaction as genuine connection – a powerful theme to examine. A third act monologue via Instastories nails this perfectly – no longer a source of dark humour, Ingrid’s vulnerability is laid bare. It is a nuanced and sensitive performance, and one of Plaza’s best.
Olsen’s Taylor also examines the reality behind social media. The perfect life she portrays on Instagram is slowly peeled back to show the cracks beneath the perfect veneer, a comment on the illusion of perfection often created on social media.
Ingrid goes West is a thought-provoking, character driven story. The ensemble cast is superb. Jackson Jr gives a wonderfully comic and impressive performance, Magnussen balances menace with light hearted narcissism and the darkly funny, uncomfortably powerful script gives a thoughtful and nuanced examination of social media culture and its potential dangers. It is an exploration of social media and the societal pressures to construct the illusion of a perfect life. It’s amazing that it has taken Hollywood this long to explore these themes, and Ingrid Goes West is bound to prompt a slew of similar interpretations. They will find it hard to best this bitterly-entertaining, powerfully emotive satire.