The summer movie season has come to somewhat of a standstill, with many studios all but abandoning these last two weekends of August. It’s around this time of the year that many good movies slip through the cracks, only to be discovered later on during their second life on the home video market. A top candidate to have that same fate is Neon’s Ingrid Goes West, a film that received critical acclaim when it was first screened at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and has finally gotten a wide release in theaters.
In Ingrid Goes West, a mentally unstable, social media obsessed woman name Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) finds herself having to stay in a mental hospital after crashing the wedding of an unrequited friend (Mereidith Hagner). Upon her release, Ingrid is given an inheritance due to the death of her mother, and decides to use this money in order to move to Los Angeles in order to befriend a social media influencer named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). After renting an apartment in Venice from aspiring screenwriter and Batman enthusiast Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) , Ingrid begins her quest to become besties Taylor.
Ingrid Goes West is undoubtedly an indictment on today’s social media obsessed world. While the story is obviously fictitious, it’s not too hard to believe someone could or would follow a person on instaface or any other form of social media platform to the point of obsession and wanting to be close to that person. In that regard, Ingrid Goes West is a harrowing film that displays just how preoccupied today’s society is with social media and using it as a means of replacing intimate, personal relationships with “likes” and nice comments from otherwise complete and utter strangers. This makes Ingrid Goes West not only a fascinating take on today’s social media driven world, but also an agonizing watch as we see the title character continually act socially awkward and downright creepy in order just to have an otherwise surface level relationship with someone she doesn’t know from Adam.
Also making the film a tough watch for viewers is the fact that almost none of the characters are likeable or relatable in the least. We’re meant to empathize for Plaza due to the fact that her mother, whom she seemed to have a close and touching relationship with, has died, and at first we sympathize with her. But all of that is nearly thrown out the window as we cringe at every awkward moment Plaza’s Ingrid makes when stalking Olsen’s character. Ingrid takes advantage of people in almost any way she can in order to not only pursue a friendship with Taylor, but also become a social media celebrity, a shallow and disturbing pursuit. Even though this is done on purpose, Olsen’s Taylor is also just as unlikable. Her willingness to put on filters and trying portray her life as heavenly is about as annoying as a Kardashian’s post on what clothes they bought that day, and is the epitome of superficial. Although Olsen’s character is supposed to be an example of everything that is wrong with social media celebrities, it makes her that much more annoyingly uninteresting.
But therein lies the genius in Ingrid Goes West. The film is attempting to tell audiences that life cannot be lived nor mimicked by what we see from those we follow on social media platforms. Life is not going to be as pretty as one of the filters we are able to use on social media posts, and it is downright unhealthy to the point of mental instability to rely on these filters to mask our lives and build relationships upon. The film is a commentary on what can happen to us and our society if we continue to overly rely on social media, taking advantage of the fact that nearly every single audience member has taken a look at a social media post much like how Ingrid looks at Taylor’s posts in the film and wishes that her life could be like Taylor’s, and we have copied her same actions and thoughts.
What ultimately makes the film intriguing and watchable, however, are the fantastic performances in the film. Aubrey Plaza’s portrayal of Ingrid is stellar, as she is able to play the character’s mental instability as quirky in some aspects and downright unlikable in others. Plaza continues to prove she has the comedic and dramatic chops to be one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses out there. Elizabeth Olsen continues to showcase she is the most talented of the Olsen sisters, and her take as a flat socialmedialite nails the current Instagram famous celebrity we cannot help but follow today. O’Shea Jackson Jr. demonstrates he’s not just a one trick pony after portraying his legendary gangster rapper father, Ice Cube, in Straight Outta Compton. Jackson Jr. is the most likeable of all the characters in the film, and his character’s obsession with Batman delivers one of the most hysterical sex scenes ever captured on film.
Overall, Ingrid Goes West isn’t the easiest film to sit down and watch due to its downright chilling take on the current state of our social media driven society. But the film is able to ride the terrific performances of its lead actors to make the film topical, but hilariously educational in the sense that it is a cautionary tale of what not to put emphasis on in our lives. There’s nothing like a film that not only points the finger at the audience in an uncomfortable manner, but makes us laugh while doing so. In the end, Ingrid Goes West tells us to disregard the filters we use to mask our otherwise blisteringly uninteresting lives and to live them in the hopes that we can be happy and loved without the need for a “like” button to replace the real feeling.
Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Matinée Price.
Ingrid Goes West stars Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff, and Meredith Hagner. It is in theaters August 11th.