REVIEW: Ingrid Goes West
Directed by Matt Spicer
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by Matt Spicer, Ingrid Goes West stars Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Billy Magnussen, Wyatt Russell, Pom Klementieff, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. Ingrid (Plaza) spends every waking moment on Instagram, trying to find some kind of connection in all the wrong ways. When she comes across the stylish Californian Taylor Sloane (Olsen), Ingrid moves across the country and tries to live the life of someone else for no other reason than she just wants friends. This is not how to make friends.
Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance this year, Ingrid Goes West might not have been seen by many, but its awareness is growing steadily. Why? Because it’s f**king good.
Aubrey Plaza shines in this role, despite Ingrid being an increasingly dark and shallow person. Plaza breaks free from her post-Parks and Recreation typecasting to explore a character as dark as Travis Bickle, but with a sense of humour. Ingrid is inexplicable, possibly insane person, and is simply a consequence of a generation glued to phones like placentas. Her obsession with Instagram, texting, and just social media of any kind is not some desperate outreach by the director to get younger audiences interested; it’s a disgusting reality, shown as it should be for what it can do to an already unstable person.
Elizabeth Olsen and O’Shea Jackson Jr. are playing roles that one might find easily in other romantic comedies, but there’s a spin on it. Jackson Jr. as Batman-nut Dan Pinto is the charming and endearing love-interest, who here is unafraid to call out a situation when it gets too ridiculous. He feels like a completely real person. Olsen’s Taylor Sloane also feels real but in the wrong ways. The kind of vapid, art-scene, paid Instagram model and promoter is so many women today, so Sloane is a microcosm of all that. She can handle social interactions with real people, but almost refuses to create real relationships, even with her husband, the supposed love of her life.
The way that Ingrid Goes West presents its characters and imbues them with highly-relevant themes is incredibly bold, mature and darkly funny at times. The filmmakers, Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith (co-writer), are essential newcomers but they control this film like masters of social commentary.
Ingrid Goes West is surprisingly short at only 97 minutes, and there are plenty of moments where you just don’t want to watch because of how “cringe” it all is. Every scene feels like a nightmare of shocking realism, and while not every character gets a complete arc and it does divert into cliché moments towards the end, the final scene will still hold you so close on the edge. Ingrid Goes West is an incisive, frightfully audacious cautionary tale, filled with fantastic performances from everyone, and wrapped up in commanding writing, direction, cinematography and music.