INGRID GOES WEST

I love films about crazy people. They provide a vessel for us to experience stories that bring us out of our comfort zone, sometimes making us root for the chaos that’s happening on screen. It also allows for actors to break out of their mold, try something a bit different, and show us the true range of their abilities. Another thing I love is satire. A good story makes for a good film, sure, but satire can often elevate it to a great one. You’re not just getting an engrossing story about a mentally unhinged person, but also disgustingly poignant commentary on our current society.  

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is a horribly mentally unstable woman living in Pennsylvania, becoming a huge emotional wreck after the death of her mother. When her friend Charlotte (Meredith Hagner) doesn’t invite her to her wedding, Ingrid crashes it, spraying Charlotte in the face with pepper spray. After a brief stay at a mental institute and a failed attempt to reconnect with Charlotte, Ingrid learns about social media celebrity Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Obsessed with Taylor’s seemingly perfect life, Ingrid Goes West to Los Angeles in order to meet and befriend her, arousing suspicion from everyone along the way. 

Sometimes a film is only as good as its lead, and Aubrey Plaza is an absolutely superstar in the lead role, using her deadpan comedic chops to their fullest extent, but being able to flex her dramatic muscles, too. The way she tries to have normal interactions with other people is hysterical, but also kind of sad because you can see damaged she really is. While Ingrid does a bunch of awful things, there’s an air of sympathy not just due to her backstory, but because Plaza is just so charming and fun to watch. As unsettling as it was watching Ingrid do what she did, there was a small part of me that wanted her to succeed, mostly just to see where this crazy story would go next. While the film is very funny, with snappy dialogue and great delivery from the performers, it’s all at the expense of a mentally ill person and how she tries to handle her own problems. Director and co-writer Matt Spicer isn’t afraid to get dramatic when he needs to, making sure you really understand the characters and their struggles. He handles the subject of mental illness with great care, where you’re not laughing at Ingrid, but at the ridiculousness of the situation. 

We know Ingrid is clearly mentally ill from the get go, who has absolutely nothing going on in her life, to where she lives vicariously through others on social media. Stuff like scrolling through people’s Instagram photos of their fancy food (while liking every single one), as she eyes her crusty, microwaved pasta on the coffee table. Everybody in this film is pretty sad and pathetic to an extent, though. Elizabeth Olsen as Taylor Sloane is another star here as the vapid social media celebrity who cares more about her followers than anything else. Olson can convey a lot with her eyes, to where here personality is very bubbly, but you can see that there’s nothing going on behind her blank stares. Her entire “personality” exists online. The only genuine goodness that’s in the film is Dan, played by a hilarious O’Shea Jackson Jr. He’s the only person who cares about Ingrid, but it’s all because he has his own set of emotional problems, too. He has a superficial obsession with Batman to where it’s practically his identity, down to using the actual title font from Batman Forever on his business cards. From social media, to comic books, to art, it seems everybody uses something to mask their true selves from everyone else. 

The screenplay is incredibly tight, moving with such an energy that you can hardly believe some of the crazy stuff you’re seeing. There’s not much time wasted on fluff, where time skips will happen, but all the information that we need to know is delivered immediately. It does lose its pacing a bit in the end, where it starts to drag, but it’s a perfect representation of Ingrid’s deteriorating mental state. All of the fun games are over and it’s back to wallowing in depression. While some more plot crucial information later on could have been explained better, it’s perhaps used to show just how self-centered Ingrid really is. She’s in every scene, so the entire film takes place from her myopic, warped point of view. She only cares about something if it’s affecting her. 

The film isn’t just an exploration on the further deteriorating mental state of an obsessive personality, but also biting satire on how social media obsessed American culture has become. The whole Instagram culture is beautifully captured to a sickening point. Just reading some of the ridiculous #hashtags online can get annoying enough, but when it’s coupled with a voiceover of the actor actually saying, “Prayer hands emoji. Hashtag: perfect life,” it really highlights how superficial it actually sounds. There’s a wonderfully funny scene with Ingrid and Taylor make someone take photos of themselves from multiple angles, just to get that perfect Instagram shot. Of course, none of that awkwardness comes across to her followers online, just the glamour of the actual photo. It felt similar to Get Out, in that it’s a pretty standard film concept, but it has this incredibly poignant social commentary that really elevates the story and characters. 

Ingrid Goes West is the perfect kind of satire; it makes you laugh because it’s true, but it also disgusts you for that same reason. I was constantly rolling my eyes throughout the various lampoons on social media culture, but I couldn’t help but laugh at how silly it all was. However, it’s slightly unsettling, as it’s a great example of how incessant exposure to social media can have a damaging effect on one’s psyche. Ingrid Goes West is a darkly hilarious and fun film with magnetic performances from everyone involved, but it’s also a sharp and disturbing satire of our current social media culture and the mental illnesses that can come along with it. 

 #9.5/10

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