A young social-media addict stalks and lies her way into the life of an Instagram star in “Ingrid Goes West,” an entertaining and sometimes scary comedy about how, in the hashtag age, people present their lonely selves and hungry hearts to the world.
Directed by debut feature filmmaker Matt Spicer, who cowote the Sundance-winning screenplay with David Branson Smith, this semi-indie is a satire, a psycho-comedy and cautionary tale. Though it’s not as wicked as some may hope for, it’s worthy and occasionally stellar.
Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid Thorburn, a lonely young woman driven over the edge by her mother’s death. In a setup sequence, Ingrid crashes a wedding and attacks the bride — a fellow social-media user, whom she’s never met in person — for not inviting her.
After a psychiatric-hospital stay, Ingrid emerges with a new Instagram fixation: Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a cool- and casual-looking professional lifestyle infuencer who posts images of things like her latest handbag purchase and plates of avocado toast online.
With $60,000 in inheritance cash stuffed in her bag, Ingrid relocates from Pennsylvania to Venice, California, and rents an apartment from a Batman-loving aspiring screenwriter (O’Shea Jackson Jr.).
After remaking herself, Taylor style, Ingrid sets out to become Taylor’s new best friend, a mission that involves stalking and dog-napping.
She soon finds herself dining with Taylor and Taylor’s faux-artist husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell). During a trip to Joshua Tree, Ingrid and Taylor bond.
Ingrid’s scheme collapses when Taylor’s visiting brother (Billy Magnussen), an unhinged party boy, detects Ingrid’s intentions.
While sometimes exploring riskier terrain, the film ultimately isn’t biting, dark or deep enough to qualify as a truly nervy satire or psychological comedy, and the final act unfolds predictably.
Still, it’s far from a “Single White Female” for millennials.
It takes a sharp, funny stab at shallow lifestyles, chronic posers, social-media maniacs and the mentality that associates online “likes” and “friends” with true connection.
Spicer and his well-cast actors convey humanity throughout.
Plaza, a comedy it-girl and impressive talent, bravely makes Ingrid horrid at times, and sad and sympathetic other times, perhaps prompting viewers to see aspects of Ingrid in themselves.
Olsen is also noteworthy as a character that’s a fraud, and the same goes for Russell, whose Ezra, a wannabe Ed Ruscha, in a terrific scene, confesses to feeling like a charlatan. Jackson’s character — who, being infatuated with merely Batman, is the movie’s healthiest obsessive — is a delight.
Ingrid Goes West
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell
Written by: Matt Spicer, David Branson Smith
Directed by: Matt Spicer
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutesAubrey PlazaElizabeth OlsenIngrid Goes WestMatt SpicerMovies and TVO’Shea Jackson Jr.Wyatt Russell