Matt Spicer’s first directorial feature may just be the film of our times. Well, one of them. It is a satirical and relevant look into the popular sickness of a generation; social media.
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) is a young woman dealing with the open wound of a lost loved one. Seeking comfort following the tragic absence of her mother and best friend, she takes to Instagram to connect with someone that can whisk her mind away from the sadness of her reality. Things don’t seem to be going so well though – anyone who responds to her seems to be instantly stalked, fixated upon by Ingrid’s curious eye for every picture the victims share with the world. An earlier attempt at making friends ends with a beautiful young woman being maced on her wedding day, so there is always the sense that if things don’t go as planned with her new interest, Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), disappointment could prove even more explosive. Taylor is an Instagram star, posting pictures of her Avocado toast with captions of hollow inspiration, and Ingrid has just moved within close proximity of her lavish lifestyle with the intention of appropriating herself into what appears to be pure picturesque comfort.
It’s a delightfully odd film, simultaneously handling screwball elements and relevant satire with a unique perspective on a new generation’s reverie and transitory taste. Ingrid, an ambassador for the Facebook age, is scarily resemblant of many we know, or perhaps even a frightening reminder of our own habits. Whether brushing her teeth or watching T.V., you better believe it, her fingers are scrolling away, liking every picture that appears without even registering what it is; a crime we are all guilty of at times, making the films unofficial hashtag #Iamingrid applicable to all who witness it. She is often a relishable and sympathetic protagonist, if not misguidedly influenced by the tortures of her own grief. A good heart and good intentions direct her agenda, but taking it to such extreme lengths sometimes proves difficult to watch, in a restless, compromisingly entertaining sort of way.
Embarking on her twisted fantasy, Ingrid meets a myriad of interesting characters along the way. O’Shea Jackson Jr. as the Batman-obsessed Dan is the obvious highlight, rarely seen without emitting clouds of vape smoke as he professes his love for the caped crusader. But, these aren’t just comical instruments in a narrative played out for belated prophecy, they are weathered and well-rounded creations. Dan’s love for a pop-culture icon relates back to childhood trauma, while Taylor’s boyfriend Ezra’s (Wyatt Russell) insecurities about his art stem from a knowledge of his own shallow denial. This flock of well-written characters are all intriguing to get to know right up until the very point you tardily desire to establish some distance from their legitimacy; the character relationships work in the exact same way, a testament to the films success in encompassing you in its messages of starry-eyed delusions and falsehoods. This is all shepherded by a magnetic and unanticipated central performance from Aubrey Plaza, who possesses a great deal of charm, but knows exactly when to let such inviting temperament disintegrate into flinches of outrage.
Snappily edited with a bright tone that dwindles at the same rate that the artificial Instagram facade decays, Ingrid Goes West is an intelligent and very enjoyable film which chooses to embrace the ridiculous scenarios that such a whimsical narrative can pose. But, at the same time, knows exactly when to balance a sincerity that is imperative in order to elevate such judicious agenda into more than mere comedy, but rather a foreboding observation of the drastic measures that people can take to chase feelings of acceptance and friendly connection in a world that cares for snapshots, not those who take them. Hopefully the ending, which could be under danger of being misread by the very audiences it mocks, is taken seriously – it’s an unexpected triumph of a film.