In Ingrid Goes West, Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid, a lonely, unhinged millennial who really loves Instagram and the pretty girls who live there. When we first meet Ingrid, she crashes the wedding of one such Instagram star, maces the bride, enjoys a brief montage at the nuthouse, inherits $60,000 from her recently deceased mother's life insurance and absconds with the money to Los Angeles to start a new life and a new Instagram account, username: IngridGoesWest.
It's a simple and timely setup from 33-year-old director Matt Spicer, who also co-wrote the screenplay with writer David Branson Smith. Social media's such a ubiquitous part of so many of our lives, it's a wonder there haven't been more films born out of it already. Or maybe it's obvious: Social media's an immersive experience for the user, but to watch a person scroll through their feed slack-jawed and hypnotized is grossly uncinematic. (I'm reminded of a line from the 2015 film Mistress America: "Stop talking about Twitter, it's so awkward!")
Ingrid's motivated to move to L.A. by Instagram trendsetter Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) after she replies back to Ingrid's comment on her perfectly rendered photograph of avocado toast. Pictures of Taylor pretending to read books by Joan Didion by the pool, aerial shots of her latte, pictures of her tiny dog playing and her storybook wedding, all of it interspersed with inconspicuous plugs for lifestyle products—this is a real life internet job, held by all the prettiest girls from high school. (I'm not as active on Instagram, but I like to check in on trendsetters like these on YouTube. My favorite videos are of the "get ready with me" variety. I could watch a girl contour her face or engage in elaborate face washing rituals for days. "Before I get in the bath I always light this pumpkin-spice scented candle by Sonoma. I'm, like, obsessed with it.")
- Aubrey Plaza stars in Ingrid Goes West.
Not unlike the candle, Ingrid's obsessed with Taylor, and makes quick work of ingratiating herself into the social media icon's life. She's helped in large part by her unwitting landlord Dan (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), an aspiring screenwriter and avid Batman fan. Like everyone else in L.A., he has a mysteriously inexhaustible income. Still, he's the only character in the film with a soul.
Ingrid goes to great lengths to project the perfect internet image, from decorating her apartment like an Urban Outfitters catalogue to getting Taylor's exact haircut and color (respect to the OG film of this genre, Single White Female). In one scene, she's Dick Van Dyke-show levels of clumsy and awkward. In the next, she's poised and normal, and the inconsistencies bug me. Moments like these make me long for more backstory about who this girl is and what led to her TV-movie psychosis. Ingrid's obsessive behavior is the dark matter fueling this comedy, and for about half of the film's brief 97 minutes, we're running on fumes.
There's a curious lack of arc to these characters that's both refreshing and unsatisfying. No one really changes or learns from their experience, which may be reflective of real life, but is it worth going to a theater to witness? You could go see Ingrid Goes West, or quite honestly, have an equally good time watching girls on the internet make smoothies and talk to their cat. Both experiences are pretty good in different ways.
Ingrid Goes West opens at the Roxy Fri., Aug. 25.