Naturally, it’s fertile thematic territory, especially for dark comedy. Unfortunately, though, only a scant number of films have successfully captured the dichotomy between our radiant online personalities and our growingly shallow, monotonized lives with any real depth, weight or richness. There are too many movies like Men, Women & Children and too few like The Social Network. The Internet can seemingly provide us anything. Yet, ironically, good movies about the Internet are hard to find.
Ingrid Goes West, the impressive and delightfully revolting feature debut of co-writer/director Matt Spicer, knows how to connect to our computerized age while simultaneously separating itself and, therefore, satirizing our technology-obsessed world. Ruthlessly resolute and vigorously black-hearted, this beautifully bold, defiantly unwavering and sometimes strangely sympathetic character piece is a finely weaved mix of Single White Female, Chuck & Buck, King of Comedy and Talented Mr. Ripley for the Instagram century. Daring, deranged and intriguingly unfiltered, it’s exactly the kind of comedy we need today.
Mentally ill Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is a lonely, isolated Instagram devotee who can’t separate her feed from reality. Following the passing of her sick mother, her only true friend, Ingrid struggles to differentiate between a “like” and genuine companionship, resulting in a messy (if bitterly hilarious) incident that ruins a poor girl’s wedding. After a short mental hospital stay, Ingrid doesn’t find herself deterred but rather reinvigorated when she discovers the glamorous, delectable life of Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Instagram starlet who uses the app religiously and amassed a wide following as a result.
Rounding up her mother’s $70,000 savings, Ingrid swiftly heads to sunny, luxurious L.A., where she’ll stalk Taylor endlessly and do whatever it takes to become her number 1 #BFF. Throughout her travels, she forms an unusual relationship with her vape-friendly, Batman-enthusiast landlord Dan Pinto (an immensely charming O’Shea Jackson Jr.) while also realizing that, no matter how many followers you collect, you can never truly hide your true self — no matter how many filters you may use.
As Ingrid Thorburn, Plaza is insanely, intoxicatingly good. Akin (and perhaps on par) with Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, she is calculated and spontaneous, both deliberate and vulnerable. She quite easily gives her most compelling performance, in the role that might honestly serve as one of her most revolutionary, memorable and distinguishable characters in her copiously varied career. Plaza has continued to find intriguing and distinctive ways to play unconventional and uncomfortable characters. She has a true talent for playing the type of characters which rarely make their way into modern films, and as her career continues to skyrocket, movies like Ingrid Goes West prove she’s bound for real greatness.
Sparklingly filmed and tightly formed at 100 minutes, Ingrid Goes West is also, thankfully, among the rare black comedies to willingly go the extra mile and challenge itself in darker, depressing ways. As a result, it’s most certainly not going to win everyone over, and there are some genuine criticisms to be made with its sometimes flat, one-note supporting characters. But those quick to dismiss Ingrid Goes Westmight be among those who are too brutish to recognize what might become one of the most telling, topical comedies to come out in a good while. Quite frankly, it’s impressive that films like Ingrid Goes West wound up getting made. It’s introspective and character-driven, yes but it also speaks volumes about today’s online age.
Ingrid Goes West is not necessarily a profound movie. Nothing it says will appear shocking or unfounded in a post-Catfish age. But it is a starkly relevant and modern film, and through its sly commentary and bruising wit, it is telling all the same. What you find from Spicer’s film might vary, especially depending on your tolerance for such unnerving character studies, but there’s no doubt that Ingrid Goes West is the right kind of comedy for this distinctive time. Technology and social media might get center focus, but above all else, it’s a human story, and that’s what makes it work. Ingrid Goes West travels under your skin and it settles deep into your subconscious. It’s not the type of movie you’ll soon forget. This movie leaves us #blessed.