For those still haunted by The Emoji Movie (opens in new tab), there is relief at hand. A sly and savage dark comedy, Ingrid Goes West is proof that you can make a good movie out of social media trends. In this case, Instagram – although the photo-sharing app could just as easily be swapped for any other public platform where ‘likes’ and followers are what counts.
When we meet Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), she’s storming in to the wedding of Charlotte, a ‘friend’ who we later learn is really just someone she stalked on Instagram. After the fracas at Charlotte’s nuptials, Ingrid spends time in a psychiatric hospital. When she emerges, her recovery is hampered by the death of her mother, an incident that hints at the root of her malaise.
Rather than seek solutions, Ingrid lapses into the same old patterns when she reads a magazine article about Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) – headline: “Your newest girl crush” – an ‘influencer’ living in Los Angeles. She’s the type whose wisdom-fuelled posts include: “Another day, another avocado toast,” accompanied by a prayer-hands emoji. But when Taylor replies to one of her comments, Ingrid heads to LA to find her.
Funding her trip with a $60,000 inheritance, Ingrid finds shelter in a rental property next door to Dan (Straight Outta Compton’s O’Shea Jackson Jr.) – a would-be screenwriter obsessed with all things Batman.
Soon, she engineers a meet-up with Taylor – by stealing her dog and then returning it – and before long, the two are BFFs. With Taylor dating artist Ezra (Wyatt Russell), it all looks good for Ingrid, until the arrival of Taylor’s loose-cannon brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen)…
Directed and co-written by debut filmmaker Matt Spicer, Ingrid Goes West is a smartly played piece that both lampoons social media users and explores the darker side of our need for validation through others. It’s also a cry for real-life human connection, largely through the character of Dan, who – despite his never-ending babble about the Dark Knight – is arguably the only genuine one of the group.
Ingrid may be involved in some “Single White Female shit”, as one character notes, and even the soundtrack takes a dig, with the inclusion of ‘Obsession’ by Animotion. But thanks in no small part to Plaza’s winning performance, Ingrid is a likeable misfit who, perhaps, has more of a chance to change than Taylor and her ultra-phoney crowd.
With some highly amusing stabs at LA clean living (“How can I nourish you today?” asks a waiter), Ingrid Goes West will leave you entertained, provoked and probably slightly concerned at how many times a day you log on to Instagram.