Ingrid Goes West

One of the few movies I was really looking forward to, this one is a social satire of people who create perfect fantasy lives on Instagram, and you know how I love me some social satires—and hate social media culture and the damage it has done to humanity. So I’m totally up for it, less-than-thrilled reviews or no!

The movie starts with Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid crashing a perfect wedding—the Insta-posts are coming fast and thick as the ceremony is in progress—and pepper-spraying the bride. We find out later that she wasn’t actually friends with the bride, the bride just liked one of her posts once. She is then sent to a mental institution for a while, during which time her mother dies. When she is released, she inherits sixty thousand dollars, which she takes in cash and moves out to LA, where she begins to stalk Taylor Sloane, lifestyle Instagram star played by Elizabeth Olsen. She manipulates her way into a friendship, hangs with Taylor for a while, until, inevitably, her façade starts to crack and Taylor finally realizes who she really is.

The movie is fun to watch and goes down smooth. Plaza is perfect—she overdoes it just a touch, but in a way that keeps Ingrid a bit on the crazy side and her performance quite funny. Olsen nails the Insta-fabulous role and is pitch perfect in look, vocal inflection and affect. O’Shea Jackson, son of Ice Cube, is infinitely charming and nearly steals the whole movie. And the friend I saw it with liked that it’s one of the few movies to be steeped completely in phone culture and really captures the way people involved in this culture speak and act. I was especially impressed at how the entire cast nailed the vocal inflections of women who are afraid to be very serious about anything and for whom everything is always fabulous and a blessing from the goddess who just wants them to live perfect, balanced, ultra-bourgeois and sheltered white-girl lives.

The problem, as usual, is the script. We are taking potshots at easy targets—something that has never bothered me—but while the movie moves swiftly and never flags, afterward you realize how shallow its critique is, how many opportunities are lost, and how little insight it has to offer. We get almost no insight into Ingrid, how she became so obsessed, what she’s looking for and what went so wrong in her life that she needs it. Taylor is wide open for a huge amount of critique, but receives very little. There is one scene in which she makes a man lie down on the ground in order to get the perfect picture of her making a peace sign, but it is the only scene like it in the film. Later, we get hints that she is moving on from Ingrid in order to cozy up to a more famous fashion designer, but this is left as a background thread. The movie is rife with incident, but the details and insight are left lacking. The movie also wastes the always-excellent Wyatt Russell and makes Jackson’s character ridiculously, and unrealistically, forgiving. The whole thing could have used much less incident and much more character details and insight.

Still, amusing and fun to watch, and one of the few satires daring to take on social media culture that exists, so we might as well enjoy it while we have it. On a separate point… perhaps the lack of movies about people who live through social media indicates how unbelievably boring those people are? Just a question.

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