Aubrey Plaza takes a stab at social media obsession in Ingrid Goes West. Written and directed by Mat Spicer, the film is a fairly humorous if uneven take. The world of Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook is ripe for obvious satire. Ingrid Goes West has ample ammunition to target the facade of commercialism and narcissism. It needed to dig deeper regarding the mental health aspects of the story. Ingrid is an unbalanced, mentally ill character. Her desperate antics are funny to a point. Then become a sad reflection of the so-called connected world.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid Thorburn, a mentally unstable millennial unable to cope with her mother’s death. Fresh out of an asylum and flush with cash from her inheritance, Ingrid succumbs again to her psychosis. She becomes fixated on the glamorous lifestyle of social media star, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). The beautiful Los Angeles socialite has it all. She’s sophisticated, fashionable, and in a dream marriage to the rugged artist, Ezra (Wyatt Russell). Ingrid decides to pack up and head out west to be with her perceived “bestie”. She expertly insinuates herself into Taylor’s life, until the whole charade comes crashing down.
Ingrid Goes West takes a critical eye to the marketing fueled world of social media influencers. Ingrid gobbles up Taylor’s Instagram feed. She buys every product that Taylor hawks online. The trendy clothes, accessories, pseudo intellectual reading list, she’s all in on anything that Taylor Sloane “likes”. The rub is that Ingrid doesn’t seem to care once she gets a peek behind the curtain. Taylor Sloane is a pure shill. Her image is a superficial ruse, carefully coiffed and manicured to maintain followers. A normal person would be put off by this discovery, but not Ingrid. She’s an obsessed stalker living in a false reality.
The film loses interest with a blase third act. We are introduced to Taylor’s duplicitous brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen). He quickly deduces Ingrid’s a fraud. Thus setting up the foil to her plans. This is where Ingrid Goes West turns into a hackneyed soap opera. All of the clever social media barbs are petered away by nonsensical plot developments. Matt Spicer needed a better resolve to this story. His script starts strong, but struggles to achieve a worthy climax.
Aubrey Plaza is at her best portraying Ingrid’s instability. The character is incapable of dealing with her illness. Her self worth is based solely on digital affirmations from social media. The scenes of her alone, crying, struggling to deal with depression are effective. They are in marked contrast to the public face of a bouncing blonde with designer duds. Ingrid Goes West is more comedy than drama. The filmmakers strafe the mental health issues. I wish they had taken a more concerted approach to addressing her root problems.
Ingrid Goes West is an independent film distributed by Neon. It works as a vehicle for Aubrey Plaza’s talent. She excels at playing troubled characters. The social media satire is done well enough. Ingrid’s mental health warrants more screen time. Her machinations are funny, but you can only laugh at a deranged woman for so long. Ingrid needs meds and a psychiatrist.