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Monday
Aug282017

Review: "Ingrid Goes West"

By Spencer Coile 

Following the death of her mother, Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is in a rut. With no one to turn to, she scrolls through Instagram in hopes of finding her ideal friend. She soon finds Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a California-based social media influencer -- and Ingrid's latest muse. Captivated by Taylor's seemingly glamorous life, Ingrid packs up her life in Pennsylvania and heads to the sunny West Coast, in hopes of befriending Taylor and catching a glimmer of social media stardom. 

Written and directed by Matt Spicer, Ingrid Goes West is the latest in a long line of films that demonstrate the pervasiveness of technology and the influence social media has on our lives. If you find yoursevles rolling your eyes at that comment, fear not. Ingrid is far more interested in exploring our relationship with the likes of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., rather than merely demonizing its usage. Oh, and it is hilarious. 

Ingrid Goes West opens with a close-up shot of Ingrid's eyes. They are red, puffy, full of tears. She scrolls through her Instagram feed, eyeing photos of her supposed friend Charlotte on her wedding day. Ingrid was clearly not invited -- but that certainly does not stop her from crashing the party and macing Charlotte in the face. Equal parts comical and uncomfortable, this sets the wheels in motion for Ingrid's journey to California. 

Spicer is unafraid of showing Ingrid at her most unlikable, but it is always tinged with hints of melancholy and darkness. Sure, she is mentally unstable, but she is also desperate for attention, for love. She returns from her stint in a mental hospital, she regards her empty home -- a sign of her mother's passing. In these inital glimpses into Ingrid's mental state, it is clear that Spicer is much more interested in examining our obsession with a social media presence than mocking it. Her arrival to California is marked by her forced friendship with Taylor. Ingrid is oftentimes unkept, but if she were to show the world how special her life was and earn another follower in the process, then she will put on a performance. She will be beautiful and stylish -- but always with Taylor's influence over her.   

As Taylor, Olsen is equal parts mysterious, alluring, but also deeply flawed. The typical trajectory for a character like Taylor would be the audience finding out that her life is not what it seems, that she is completely miserable. However, this is not the case for Taylor Sloane. No, her life is not what Ingrid initally saw on Instagram, but that will not stop Taylor from pretending, from blurring that line between what we see and reality. It is easy to see why Ingrid is drawn to Taylor -- she is funny and heartfelt, driven by her passions. And Olsen allows Taylor to be prickly, to be a fully realized character.  

 The real star is Ingrid Thorburn, a character that Plaza imbues with small quirks, with a quick wit, but with no real identity of her own. It is easy to laugh at the moments that are deeply uncomfortable to watch, where Ingrid puts her foot in her mouth or makes a fool of herself (they happen often), but Plaza is sure to never let those moments interfere with the underlying qualities that Ingrid is afraid to show anyone. She is vulnerable, and worried that if there is no one there to experience every memory with her, does it really matter? Did it even happen? And in an age where every moment we share must be documented for social media clout, her question rings true. 

Spicer's screenplay is biting and amusing, but not without some flaws. The sudden appearance of Taylor's brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen) feels like a separate film on its own -- its storyline feels shoe-horned in as a means of giving the film a villain to root against. However, taking the themes of Spicer's story into account, there did not need to be a villain to begin with. Had the film taken more time to flesh out Taylor's relationship with Ingrid in those moments, the story might have been clearer. Still, though, with Ingrid front and center for the duration of the film, we are in good hands. She is unreliable, messy, and disheveled -- but in Plaza we trust, and Ingrid becomes as real as those we follow on Instagram. 

Grade: B

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Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for putting this on my radar Spencer!

I look forward to any Plaza offering.

August 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Lewis

Co-sign all of this, and I really wish the world would realise ASAP what a major major gift Aubrey Plaza is to us all. Who else could make this character both so convincingly warped and so convincingly real?

I also loved her in The Little Hours and I hear she's doing great things on TV somewhere too at the moment.

August 28, 2017 | Unregistered Commentergoran

That would be in Legion on FX as a super villain, and yes, it's true.

August 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

I agree that it is a good film and worth a B grade. But......ultimately the movie made me very sad for Ingrid, and I found I couldn't laugh along at many of the scenes with the rest of the audience.

I alos think Plaza is getting typecast too much. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but i am not convinced yet that she is a "good" actress with a decent enough range.

August 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

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