Ingrid Goes West — and South — in Search for Self

Movie Review: Ingrid Goes West

Aubrey Plaza brings pathos, humour and cringe-worthy authenticity to Matt Spicer’s movie about a young woman seeking personal validation from social media

Ingrid Goes West

3.5/5

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff

Directed by: Matt Spicer

Running time: 1 hr 37 mins

Rating: Restricted

By Katherine Monk

Some movies make you laugh. Some make you cry. Others make you cringe. Ingrid Goes West is definitely the latter.

In some ways, you could call this Matt Spicer film a modern comedy of manners because it’s about a woman desperate to become part of the elite. The big difference being the type of elite, because this isn’t about traditional notions of class. Ingrid Goes West is all about the new definition of influence and power, which our current reality equates with social media success — and how many people ‘follow’ you.

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is a social media outcast. Humiliated in the first scene for being a ‘social media stalker,’ Ingrid decides her only option is to start with a clean slate somewhere new, and like a great many American heroes, that means heading west.

Traditionally, the west represented new horizons and the open frontier, but for Ingrid, it’s about finding a whole new sun to orient her world, which in her case, means a whole new person to stalk.

She’s become fixated on a woman named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). She doesn’t know Taylor. She’s never even met Taylor, but she follows Taylor on Instagram and for her, that’s just one step removed from becoming the all-hallowed ‘BFF.’

Before we know it, Ingrid has rented a house near Taylor’s in Venice Beach. She reads every one of Taylor’s posts and soon appears in the same spaces, seeking a fleshy encounter with her  make-believe bestie.

She follows her design tips. Wears the same clothes, and sooner than later, realizes her dream of meeting Taylor.

For the viewer, it’s a bit like watching Jaws — only with Aubrey Plaza as the mechanical beast, swimming around Taylor with a hunger for friendship as random as a shark’s choice of fleshy feast.

Director Matt Spicer does a pretty good job playing on the suspense, but he brightens the frame with a degree of comic self-awareness, and for that, we can thank Plaza. The woman who brought deadpan charm to Parks and Recreation’s ambient silliness may be one of the most fearless performers of her generation.

For the viewer, it’s a bit like watching Jaws — only with Aubrey Plaza as the mechanical beast, swimming around Taylor with a hunger for friendship as random as a shark’s choice of fleshy feast.

She’s also one of the most self-possessed. Not content to sit back and wait for offers from producers, she develops her own projects, strange little pets that no one else will adopt. From the bizarre zombie film Life After Beth, to The Little Hours, a recent film adaptation of the 14th century Italian work, The Decameron, Plaza finds work that takes her audience on unexpected tours of the human soul, showing us things that we often overlook because, well, they aren’t always that pretty.

Ingrid is the selfie we delete: Insecure, overly eager to engage, and entirely unhinged, there is nothing remotely ‘cool’ about Ingrid.

Yet, we recognize her nonetheless, which is one of the reasons why this movie is so compelling. It shows us a woman who is so self-conscious in her bid to become whole, she is incapable of living her life without external affirmations.

It’s painful to watch, but every time we squirm, we’re more aware of how pathetic the pursuit of Facebook happiness truly is. It’s not real, and the fact Ingrid attaches such meaning to it all makes her a truly tragic figure.

She’s bought into a big lie, and in this case, the lie is Taylor Sloane’s digital identity. She looks like the realization of hipster cool and fashionista savoir-faire, but it’s pure fabrication — like hiring an interior decorator for your life, it’s just a matter of curating, not self-creation.

Olsen’s ability to project relaxed beauty forms the perfect foil for Plaza’s ill-fitting oddball, and together, they create scenes that approach horror and comedy with equal degrees of discomfort.

So much of what happens is truly disturbing, yet Plaza’s mere presence somehow tempers the self-destructive edges because she’s unafraid to play the fool — in a truly Shakespearean sense. Replace the traditional pig’s bladder with an iPhone and a social media account, and Ingrid becomes the unwelcome messenger of human truth.

“If men could be contented to be what they are…” said the Clown in All’s Well That Ends Well, he wouldn’t need, or fear, a new identity through marriage. Ingrid articulates the same sentiments in her own unsettling, off-putting way for a new era by reminding us that if we just accepted who we are, we wouldn’t feel compelled to stage flattering selfies.

In so many ways, Ingrid Goes West offers a true mirror of where we’re at, and though it’s often hard to endure, we can’t turn away without recognizing our own reflection.

@katherinemonk

 

THE EX-PRESS, August 19, 2017

Read Katherine Monk’s movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and here on the The Ex-Press archive.

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Review: Ingrid Goes West

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Summary

3.5Score

Some movies make you laugh. Others make you cry, This one makes you cringe. Aubrey Plaza may be the most brave and creative young talent out there these days as she produces and stars in one odd-ball movie effort after another. We most recently saw Plaza take on The Decameron in The Little Hours. This time, she’s playing a social outcast named Ingrid Thorburn. When Ingrid humiliates herself on social media, she tries to reinvent herself by heading West — where she tries to insinuate herself into the life of Taylor Sloane, an Instragram ‘influncer’ played by Elizabeth Olsen. Surprisingly, she succeeds. She and Taylor become close friends. But it’s just a matter of time before Ingrid’s desperate need for social validation goes horribly wrong. Funny, but in that painfully embarrassing way, Ingrid Goes West is a rather brave piece of social commentary about our current need to create social avatars that have no real connection to reality. -- Katherine Monk

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