It’s 2017 and we live in a world where you don’t go on a vacation or get a new haircut unless you post it to Instagram, a photographic glimpse into the life of the average millennial. But what if someone looked into your life so much that they wanted to live it for themselves? That’s what we have in the latest dark comedy Ingrid Goes West, starring Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation), Elizabeth Olsen (Captain America: Civil War), and O’Shea Jackson Jr (Straight Outta Compton). Ingrid Goes West is a hilarious tale of obsession, following Plaza as the title character Ingrid: a crazed Instagram fan who, after coming into some money, moves to LA and cons her way into becoming friends with her favorite Instagramer Taylor Sloane. Ingrid is a lonely outsider who will do anything to make Sloane her best friend, including lying and kidnapping among other tactics. Ingrid Goes West skillfully walks the line between comedy and tragedy, where you’ll be crying tears of laughter one minute and literally in tears the next. A big part of this is the chilling portrayal of Ingrid by Aubrey Plaza, who gives her best performance to date.
Matt Spicer does an excellent job establishing the tone and maintaining it through his directorial debut. Between the characters, portrayal of LA, and the way Instagram is incorporated, Ingrid Goes West has a very specific flavor to it. Spicer knew exactly what he wanted and this shows how he really understands this generation. The characters are somewhat over the top, yet still feel like real people. Whether it be Ingrid’s vaping, screenwriter-landlord Dan to the unemployed artist Ezra, every character in this film had me thinking of someone I knew that I’d relate them to. But the biggest thing Spicer got right is the comedy, because the script is HILARIOUS. Comedy movies have been pretty hit-or-miss lately but Ingrid Goes West had me laughing out loud more than any film in 2017. While still praising the technical aspects of the movie, the score is worthy of note. It seamlessly sways between being light-hearted to dark and sinister as the scene dictates it.
Technical stuff out of the way, let’s talk characters and plot. The thing with Ingrid Goes West is a lot of people aren’t going to connect with this film, mainly those who are not tech savvy or involved the Instagram world. Most of the characters aren’t the best people in the world and I can see that turning people away as well, especially our protagonist. Ingrid Goes West isn’t a character study, it offers more commentary on the current state of a young person’s social environment more than anything. Ingrid is a strange character by design, because you never know when you’re supposed to feel sympathy for her. Without going into spoilers, Ingrid does a lot of terrible and even outright illegal things.
The main crux of the film seems to be how far is too far to meet your idols, but that question is answered a little ways into the first act. Yet this film still succeeds because you’re so invested in watching Ingrid spiral further into madness (not that she had far to go, she starts off pretty crazy as is). Aubrey Plaza really gets to show off her range with her trademark deadpan delivery and awkwardness, but also keeps this deranged flicker in her eye. You can tell while watching it that Ingrid is more than a little off and ready to become fully unhinged. That’s a small detail I really appreciated. The supporting cast is solid all-around, O’Shea Jackson Jr as Dan Pinto in particular. Pinto is very much a caricature, but they actually make him the heart of the film which was a very pleasant surprise. He was almost too nice and pure to a fault, but I’ll touch on that when I get to my negatives. One more brag on Jackson is that Dan’s obsession with Batman not only provided some of the funniest lines and scenes, it was also a counterpoint of levity to Ingrid’s obsession with Taylor.
Elizabeth Olsen and Wyatt Russell are great as the bourgeois, LA couple, but I did want more from Olsen and Plaza. The film is supposed to revolve around the relationship between Ingrid and Taylor, but you don’t get to see as much of it as you’d think walking in. But the real show stopper and the person who steals this entire movie is hands down Taylor’s brother Nicky, played terrifically by Billy Magnussen. You want to talk about a slimy character, the entire film’s tone shift happens once Nicky is introduced. He’s a fantastical villain for the almost surreal feeling Ingrid Goes West that fits perfectly. I’ve seen this tone-shift be a problem for some people, criticizing it for being a bit too jarring. But when you insert an antagonist hopped up on drugs in a film that dives into the culture surrounding social media that takes place in LA, it felt pretty organic to me.
Ingrid Goes West has been described as a dark comedy, but people may be shocked by how dark it goes. There are often times where there is still some humor injected into serious situations and you laugh, but you feel guilty for having done so. It’s a juxtaposition that works for most of the film until the last 25 minutes or so, where it seems Spicer and the writers didn’t quite know where to take the plot. Ingrid Goes West had the opportunity to tackle some serious issues when a certain twist happens, but then doubles back on it returning to the lighter tone from the beginning of the film. I’m tip-toeing around spoilers, but basically, what ends up happening undercuts the severity of Ingrid’s actions in an attempt to create a more positive message. I see what Spicer was going for, but all the tonal shifts wouldn’t have felt so jarring if it stayed on the darker path it was heading down. This might stem from me being a horror fan, because the third act feels very much like a thriller.
All in all, I respect this film immensely. Ingrid Goes West has a distinct identity, which reinforces some of the topics explored. It manages to be entertaining while also deep-diving into themes such as obsession, loneliness, self-confidence, and morality. You’re never really rooting for Ingrid or the people being affected by her, so everything is fair game. Ingrid Goes West is a movie to be talked about as you go in for the laughs and leave with not only a sore stomach, but some introspective questions about the obsession with social media in this digital age. Aubrey Plaza has had a big 2017 and Ingrid Goes West is her strongest work, who keeps the laughs coming from start to finish while also having you hope she never follows you on Instagram. This film is sleek, topical, and one of the funniest movies of the year. I highly recommend everybody go check out Ingrid Goes West for a wickedly good time. Just don’t take any selfies in the theater, please.
DeVaughn’s Score: 9/10