By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
The average person spends between two and four hours a day on their phone. We spend our whole lives looking down, hunched over a small, bright device that eats away at all our free time. There’s nothing necessarily wrong about doing it, we all do it every single day (I’ve written several of my Sydney Film Festival reviews on my phone while riding the bus), but it can definitely evolve into a problem. We can take it too far. People become obsessed. Social media can control us and, in dramatic instances, certain decisions we choose to make. That’s why I’m shocked it’s taken as long as it has for a movie like INGRID GOES WEST to arrive, but I’m so glad it did.
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) has relationship issues. She’s a loner, often mistaking likes on social media for a meaningful friendship. Recent events in her life have pushed Ingrid to the brink of insanity, and she finds herself in need of a fresh start. All of her friends are gone. Her life is a mess, but a mess slowly in recovery. During her time off, when scrolling through the never-ending posts on social media, Ingrid discovers an LA-based Instagram celebrity named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Taylor lives the life Ingrid wishes she had. So, naturally, Ingrid moves to LA in the attempts of befriending her newly found inspiration.
Here's when things start to get weird. Ingrid has moved into a small, cozy house owned by her new neighbour Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), and she’s starting to make a life for herself. But that wasn’t her goal when moving to LA. It was to befriend Taylor and her husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell), and she’s successful. It doesn’t take long for Ingrid and Taylor to become the closest of friends; unbeknownst to Taylor that Ingrid is secretly a stalker who’s travelled halfway across the country just to meet her. When Taylor’s brother Nicky (Billy Mugnussen) moves in temporarily, however, he plants a wedge between Ingrid and Taylor, and this wedge soon unravels some shocking, often unsettling truths.
INGRID GOES WEST is going to hit a lot of its audience hard. First time screenwriters David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer, who also directed the film, have a lot to say on the issues surrounding social media, and obsessions we develop because of it. It’s as dark as it is funny, all wrapped around a very modern, millennial-inspired storyline. Social media has its ups and downs, but it can bring with it serious problems, and INGRID GOES WEST takes these problems to extreme levels. The film is a commentary on so many things, and it’ll affect us all in different ways.
We often fantasize of a perfect lifestyle, and the world of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can give us a peek into the lives of those who live it. We’re always chasing the next big thing, but often, people online only showcase the life they want people to think they live. The internet doesn’t only speak the truth. Shocking, I know. But what this film does best is take this concept and drill it into every protagonist. Each of them is living a lie. They have a warped sense of reality, often lying and clinging onto something greater. Nobody’s perfect, even if they pretend to be, and INGRID GOES WEST pulls apart the curtains so many of us cower behind. It brings to life the truth, and it’s a shocking one at that.
The more I’ve thought about this film, the better it becomes. It starts as almost a satire on the phone obsessed modern generation, and it’s fun. The first half of this movie doesn’t raise too many stakes, but instead deals with its central characters in a mature, often problematic way. It’s all about the build-up. Smith and Spicer provide a commentary on so many things, and it wouldn’t surprise me if elements of their characters feel reminiscent of people you know, or perhaps even yourself. I could relate to aspects of their personalities, and I imagine a lot of my generation could too. The build up introduces what this film is going to be about, and the second half tears it all to the ground.
Aubrey Plaza has never been better. She’s often given the comedic, occasionally raunchy side character, but here, she goes all out. She delivers a dark, real performance that’s emotional, shocking and just the right amount of weird. Plaza is great at that awkward confidence, but something she rarely gets to do is more dramatic stuff. When the third act of INGRID GOES WEST comes around, Plaza gives it her all. This is easily one of the best performances I’ve seen throughout the entirety of the Sydney Film Festival, and that’s saying a lot. Her co-stars Elizabeth Olsen and O’Shea Jackson Jr. are also great in their own ways, full of Batman references, sincerity and nuanced brutality.
Most LA-based films have an inherent beauty to them, and INGRID GOES WEST is no exception. Director Matt Spicer has crafted not only an important movie, but also one that looks gorgeous too. His camera-work has a lived-in roughness to it. It’s got vigor, and Spicer directs his actors to perfection. Scenes set at nighttime is where this film truly comes to life, and the combination of an original screenplay with his flourishing set direction makes for a brilliant movie. Spicer’s directorial debut is strong, to say the least, and he’s certainly a talent we need to keep an eye on.
So much can be said about INGRID GOES WEST. The subject matter is authentic and real, often using its shocking commentaries to make for some dark, uncomfortable plot elements. The insanity that unfolds is well worth a watch. This is a film that will linger in the back of your mind every time you open your phone.
Like the article? Make sure to spread the word on social media.
You May Also Like: