Film Review – Ingrid Goes West
Ingrid Goes West
Aubrey Plaza has something of a reputation for being one-note. And if you’re looking to cast a role that’s both brazen and smarmily disaffected, who better really? But there is a depth to Plaza that sometimes claws its way to the surface, as seen in Safety Not Guaranteed and The To Do List. Ingrid Goes West takes it a step further, asking us to sympathize with the most unhinged celebrity-worshipper this side of Rupert Pupkin. Thanks much to Plaza’s tour de force performance, it mostly succeeds in doing so.
Starring as the titular Ingrid, we’re first introduced to Plaza as she methodically likes an acquaintance’s Instagram posts while crashing her wedding and pepper-spraying her in the face. She is institutionalized, we gather not for the first time, before returning home to live with her mother and finding a new “internet celebrity” to fixate on. It doesn’t take long.
Social media is as ripe a subject as ever for dissection (just ask The Emoji Movie), and Ingrid thankfully succeeds in balancing the unhealthiness of online obsession with the uncomfortably hilarious depths Ingrid is willing to go to achieve status. After receiving an innocuous reply from Instagram model (it’s a thing) Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) and an unexpected windfall from her mother’s sudden death, Ingrid packs it up and heads to L.A. in an attempt to seamlessly impose herself into Taylor’s life.
In his directorial debut, Matt Spicer satirizes today’s internet culture with assured aplomb. We know Ingrid is unstable, but the vapid world he paints for the relationship of Taylor and hipster husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell) is equally stinging. Microbrews and food selfies aren’t inherently bad things, but what if they slowly begin defining you? They’re the type of couple to corner you at a party to discuss politics only to immediately start parroting last night’s John Oliver. Ingrid is only all too happy to be accepted into this phony fold.
The unsung star of the film, though, is O’Shea Jackson Jr. as her vape-obsessed landlord Dan. Jackson made an indelible impression as Ice Cube in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, and gives undeniable proof again here that he is not messing around. The only character with an ounce of humanity, Dan nurtures a budding relationship with Ingrid. When not writing his unofficial Batman sequel, that is. It’s a weird touch, that one, but leads to some of the movie’s biggest laughs and a sex scene that you’re sure not to forget.
Billy Magnussen also shows up as Taylor’s coked-up, ne’er-do-well brother Nicky, looking to stir the pot for no real reason other than the movie felt it needed additional tension. Ingrid Goes West gradually and unfortunately begins losing its edge around the halfway mark and never fully recovers. The cartoonish villainy of Nicky is simply out of place in the world Spicer had built to the point of his introduction. Furthermore, the note he decides to end the film on (final shot, specifically) regretfully misses the mark by a long shot, undercutting previously explored salient points in favor of a cheap laugh/shock. I honestly can’t think of a more wrong-headed ending in recent history.
There’s still a lot to like, though, and hey it just might convince you to put your phone away at dinner. That’s a lesson we can all take to heart.