Director/co-writer Matt Spicer intriguingly meshes together a sharply insightful confection of deranged, alienated millennium-era feminine empowerment tweaked with disturbing, quirky overtones. The skillful and sardonically executed dramedy Ingrid Goes West is a smart, satirical and blistering commentary on youthful loneliness tied in the murky web of social media deception and obsession. Vastly witty and perceptive, Spicer’s off-kilter vehicle follows the exploits of a disillusioned loner searching for credibility and belonging in her miserable existence only to develop her negligent brand as a social media pariah in an oddly penetrating character study that’s worth subscribing to.
The film could be seen as this generation’s “Single White Female” and star Aubrey Plaza (also sporting a producer credit) brilliantly captures the awkwardness, desperation and inner frustration of an unhinged outsider looking to infiltrate the world of a seemingly altogether popular Instagram cutie with a massive following. Plaza (“The Little Hours”), an adventurous actress that uncannily can wear both dramatic and comedic hats simultaneously, is refreshingly unstable, scheming and caustically vulnerable as the film’s titular “heroine” who wants desperately to break out of her isolated malaise and mingle with the in-crowd.
Ingrid Thorburn (Plaza) leads a woefully lackluster life in her dreary town in Pennsylvania. She is solely alone in the aftermath of her mother’s death and having a tough time coping. The film’s opening scene illustrates how truly detached Ingrid really is when she storms into a bridal reception and maces the unsuspecting bride in the eyes as retaliation for not inviting her to the wedding. This poor young woman, we learn, is one of the few “imagined” friends that the mentally unstable Ingrid perceived were her close companions through the flashy images of Instagram. In fact, Ingrid lives vicariously through Instagram as it is her fantasy-based window into normalcy and her way to share (or in her case intrude) in the lives of the profiled personalities she champions from afar.
Enter heralded social media influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen, “Wind River”). Taylor is an uninhibited free spirit whose colorful antics have garnered her an impressive following online. The not-so-reticent Taylor is beautiful, bombastic, bubbly and the absolute bomb — at least according to the smitten Ingrid who is itching to be part of Taylor’s tight circle and boisterous adventures in the sunshine-drenched west coast nouveau swagger of the L.A. scene. Hence, Taylor Sloane is the newest target for Ingrid’s attempt at social acceptance and a convenient escape from her crippling Lonely Hearts Club prison. So, with the financial assistance of her late mother’s inheritance, Ingrid is off to California to find her latest Instagram inspiration.
As Ingrid begins her calculating bid to invade Taylor’s life (she cleverly kidnaps then “rescues” Taylor’s beloved dog Rothko as a handy means to an introduction) she quickly establishes an instant bond with the off-beat blonde beauty. Soon she is part of the party-hearty clique consisting of Taylor’s pop artist husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell, “22 Jump Street”), Taylor’s insufferable drug-addled brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen, “Birth of the Dragon”) and a host of hangers-on.
To completely solidify her position as Taylor’s BFF, Ingrid befriends — then romantically connects with — her landlord Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson, Jr. “Straight Outta Compton”) and brings him into the fold. Dan, an inspiring screenwriter, Batman fanatic and all around genuinely nice guy, reluctantly tolerates Ingrid’s pretentious pals for her sake. Finally, Ingrid has engineered her so-called cure for loneliness and despair . . . that is of course until her charade unravels in spectacular fashion.
Fittingly dark and humorously depraved, Ingrid Goes West is a biting, off-the-cuff commentary on neediness and the omnipresent social media culture that feeds into the illusion of fulfillment for the misguided masses incapable of relating on an authentic, human level. Spicer’s explosive narrative, aided by Plaza’s sullen and playfully devious performance, is a treacherous treat for spotlighting questionable social ambitions and its detrimental effect on true friendship and intimacy. Be sure to give it a “like.”