by Scott Davis
The social media revolution is very much akin to comic-book heroes after they get their powers and assume their identites: both a blessing and a curse. Over the last decade, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, amongst others, have had such an effect on millions across the globe. It brings people together to share their stories and experiences but such things only matter if someone is watching.
Ingrid Goes West; Dir.: Matt Spicer; USA 2017, 98 minutes. Our Rating: ★★★/5
A gift and a curse is the foundation of Ingrid Goes West, a cautionary tale about just how social media has taken such a hold on our day to day lives.
Ingrid, played with much gusto by Aubrey Plaza, has had a rough ride recently: her mother, who she considered her best friend, has passed away leaving her alone for the first time in a long while. Her escape from the world she inhabits is through Instagram, allowing her to live vicariously through the lives of others as she scrolls across the plethora of images and videos liking many as she goes.
But to Ingrid the platform provides more than just escapism – it provides friends, even if said people arent quite on her page. One such “Insta-famous” is Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), a cool Californian who Ingrid falls for immediately – and sets across the country to befriend her for real.
Throughout Ingrid Goes West, you cannot help but feel like this could happen to you at any moment, that someone somewhere could do the exact same thing given the scope of social media and how, given the right options, could infiltrate your life so suddenly and think they were an immediate fixture. Director Spicer is aware of this and creates a strange hybrid of a film one that’s both glossy and funny but also rather terrifying and timely and something that many of us will leave feeling like something has gotten under out skin a little. It doesn’t always work but when it does, both sides of the coin work well.
Plaza, who has always picked intriguing characters to play, has never quite picked the one that fits her like a glove – Ingrid settles that debate for she finally has a character that perfectly marries her impeccable comedic timing and quirky persona. You should feel angry with Ingrid throughout and while there are moments when you do, you can’t help but want to sit her down and tell her that everything will be ok despite some heinous moments. Olsen, too, is at her very best here despite Taylor being almost as hollow as her overly arty pic, while O’Shea Jackson Jnr is superb as the Batman-obsessed landlord-come-romantic interest for Ingrid. Batman Forever never seemed so cool as when it turns out he owns the soundtrack.
While its premises wears thin towards the finale and it doesn’t quite hit the heights that many had suggested post-Sundance, Ingrid Goes West is still a charming little indie that flies on the wings of its three wonderful central performances.