Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is incensed viewing Charlotte's wedding on Instagram. Why hadn't her friend invited her? She storms the outdoor reception and maces the bride. But Charlotte doesn't even know the woman who follows her on social media. Neither does Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an L.A. social media star who influences consumers with her boho-chic style. She becomes the stalker's next obsession when "Ingrid Goes West."
Cowriter (with David Branson Smith)/director Matt Spicer won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for his feature debut about the dangers and psychology of both sides of social media, those who covet the lives of others and those who create their own image for public consumption. The shallow, surface nature of much of L.A. culture takes a beating as well, Spicer taking aim at those always on the hunt for the latest and greatest things, accessorizing themselves with artistic touchstones whose meaning eludes them. Olsen and Plaza are wildly entertaining as the 'winner' leader and 'loser' follower who have more in common than either might imagine.
Ingrid is in a depressed state, having devoted herself to a dying mother whose loss she has still not processed. Emboldened by an inherited financial buffer, she makes her big move and finds a friend in the first person she meets, Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr., "Straight Outta Compton"), who rents her an apartment. But Ingrid will take advantage of Dan's good nature over and over as she manipulates herself into the role of Taylor's BFF. Her first attempt is slapstick, Ingrid parading herself in a store Taylor frequents, bedecked in Taylor style, but her second attempt, which involves stealing Taylor's dog, is a bingo. Ingrid lives the life she'd imagined for herself, but the constant lying catches up to her, especially with the arrival of Taylor's drug addicted brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen, "Bridge of Spies"), who not only quickly sees through her charade, but introduces a rival in the form of Harley Chung (Pom Klementieff, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2").
Ingrid is a heroine hard to root for, but Plaza keeps us intrigued with her ridiculous mission. Olsen daringly creates a woman easy to hate, a beautiful consumer driven by her ego, her marriage to Ezra O'Keefe (Wyatt Russell, "Table 19") more meaningful in how it's presented than what it actually is. Russell's Ezra is schooled in facades, but his inner misery comes bubbling through. Jackson Jr. is endearing as the average Joe whose Batman obsession drives his Hollywood dream. He makes Dan's caring for Ingrid believable as the screenplay stretches it beyond credibility. Magnussen is sheer malevolence.
The film sidesteps the usual screen graphics, portraying its world lived online more naturally. But as everything goes south for Ingrid out in Joshua Tree, the filmmakers steer their caustic comedy into soothing platitudes. "Ingrid Goes West" is an insightful social satire whose bark is more effective than its bite.
Robin did not see this film.
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