INGRID GOES WEST
2017, R, 98 mins.
Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn / Elizabeth Olsen as Taylor Sloane / O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Dan Pinto / Wyatt Russell as Ezra O'Keefe / Billy Magnussen as Nicky Sloane / Pom Klementieff as Harley Chung / Charlie Wright as Chuck / Hannah Pearl Utt as Nicole / Angelica Amor as Cindy
Directed by Matt Spicer / Written by Spicer and David Branson Smith
Social media is a fundamentally powerful force in modern culture, especially as a mass communication medium. However, it also has a decidedly macabre underbelly as a highly dangerous force of ill will when utilized by the wrong people, which is precisely the main message contained within the exceedingly bleak black comedy INGRID GOES WEST, which concerns a fanatically and clinically sick woman that goes well beyond normal means to become friends with another woman that she's been essentially stalking online via her Instagram page.
painful to watch as any modern horror film, director Matt Spicer's effort
here delves into the heart of darkness that is a subculture of pathetic
and lonely souls that can't form meaningful ties with real people, so they
opt to create relationships with popular celebs they follow online.
One of the inherently sad aspects of INGRID GOES WEST is that it
concerns the artificiality of these types of relationships and how they
implode on themselves.
That, and the
film is an absolute performance tour de force showcase reel for the
multi-faceted Aubrey Plaza, who has demonstrated a fearlessness in one film
after another harnessing roles that are anything but squeaky clean.
One of the minor miracles of INGRID GOES WEST is that the actress
plays one of the most toxically reprehensible characters that I've
experienced in any film as of late, but somehow she manages to infuse in
this unnerving persona a wounded heart that makes her relatable and oddly
sympathetic. Plaza's work here absolutely pulls no punches,
nor does it fall victim to a screenplay that portrays her in a falsely
sentimental light: This is a mentally unhealthy woman that's deplorably
self-destructive and does unspeakable harm to both herself and others in
this film., Nevertheless, Plaza always makes you feel like there's a lost and
misguided soul buried deep beneath this social monster that's desperate
for love and help. This is what allows INGRID GOES WEST to rise well above other
female centric sociopath thrillers like SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, which many critics have
compared this film to.
The opening of
the film is as chillingly cringe worthy to endure as they come as it
introduces us to the titular character Ingrid Thorburn (Plaza) as she's
discovering via an Instgaram feed that her "friend" Charlotte (Meredith
Hanger) is getting married and did not invite Ingrid to the ceremony.
In a hostile fit of rage, Ingrid violently crashes the reception,
fires pepper spray all over Charlotte's face, and calls her a word that
definitely would not be family friendly at a wedding at any time.
Ingrid is immediately wrestled to the ground and subsequently and
rightfully thrown into a mental hospital, during which time while
recovering she pens letters to Charlotte relaying how the death of her
mother recently from cancer had immeasurably messed her up.
Ingrid does eventually get released from the institution, but in a
pathetic scene that follows she has a chance altercation with one of the
wedding guests, who matter of factly explains that Ingrid was never a real
friend of Charlotte's, but rather a creepy Internet prowler that believed
she was her BFF because of an exchange on one of her Instagram post's
quickly for Ingrid as she tries to return to a life of
relative normalcy and emotional health as she stumbles on to the Instagram
page of Taylor Sloane (an impeccably well cast Elizabeth Olsen), a social
media influencer and celeb with hundreds of thousands of Insta followers
that seem to be living vicariously through her every activity that she
posts on her feed. Poor
Ingrid is immediately smitten with the relative glitz and glamour of
Taylor's page, starts to follow her, and then - dammit - begins commenting
on one of her posts, which Taylor innocently replies to and thusly cements a newfound obsession in Ingrid to become besties with her next
target. With $60,000 of her
mother's inheritance money, Igrid decides to relocate to L.A. and
insinuate herself into Taylor's life by renting a Venice Beach apartment
close to where she lives. Early
on Ingrid starts to frequent many of Taylor's favorite spots that she's
posted about and even gives herself a makeover to look like her.
She then realizes, though, that she'll have to concoct a scenario
that allows herself access to Taylor and foster a future friendship.
There are so many
individual scenes in INGRID GOES WEST that portray the main character as a
unfeeling and selfish criminal. Aside from the aforementioned opening moments of the film,
there are latter ones that'll make viewers more than a bit queasy, like
how she decides to kidnap Taylor's dog and then return it to her as a way
of easily manipulating herself into Taylor's well connected circle of
friends. Hell, she even
decides to buy one of her no talent husband's (Wyatt Russell) paintings
for thousands as another way of earning Taylor's immediate affection.
Even as Ingrid's faux friendship with Taylor is blossoming there
exists a tangible relationship in the making with her landlord (O'Shea
Jackson Jr., so remarkably good playing his dad Ice Cube in STRAIGHT OUTTA
COMPTON) that has a romantic interest in her.
Yet, even that gets derailed when Taylor's repellent drug addicted
brother (a powder kegged Billy Magnussen) shows up and smells something
very, very rotten about Ingrid.
I'm not sure how
I would have responded to INGRID GOES WEST with a less ferociously
dedicated actress at the helm than Plaza.
There's rarely a moment when she's not wide eyed and manically
insane; it's a performance of simmering and frightening intensity.
Yet, Plaza never makes Ingrid a blank, one-note villain, even
after she commits one embarrassing and spiteful act after another.
Ingrid is beyond vile at times and deserving of our hatred, but the
manner Plaza gets into her tormented head and hints that there's a
humanity that's trying to emerge is one of the film's greatest assets.
This is not only one of the actress' finest and most chameleon like
performances, but also one of the most hypnotically terrifying portrayals
of 2017. Complimenting her is
Olson, another actress whose catalogue of film choices show rich and
eclectic variety. Her razor
sharp focused work as the attention seeking Taylor is almost as eerie, but
on a different level; she's a cauldron of non-stop happiness that
frequently speaks in hyperbolic compliments and declarations,
but she's arguably as phony as Ingrid in how she lives a false life
(she gets paid to peddle products on her Instagram feed, but her followers
think she authentically endorses each product without a thought of
financial gain). Ingrid dupes
Taylor, for sure, but Taylor also dupes her legion of followers.
The only difference between the pair is that Taylor doesn't engage
in sinister criminal behavior.
INGRID GOES WEST
has been often labeled as a comedy, and the film has instances of genuine
laughs, but it's more of a nightmarish piece of scathing social commentary
with timely observations as to how social media platforms give people a
perceived sense of kinship with complete strangers and how said platforms
easily erode one's privacy. Then
there's the nagging and unsettling notion of users that instantly buy into
what they're liking and favorite-ing online as truth when the veil of
fiction is oftentimes the only truth.
Few recent films are as acutely aware and cautionary about the
inherent power and pratfalls of social media the way INGRID GOES WEST is,
especially for how it fuels the obsessive drives of so many countless
nutjobs like Ingrid, a pitiable and soulless junkie that lives every
waking moment staring into her phone for some sort of gratification.
Where INGRID GOES
WEST sort of derails is in its tonal execution.
There are too many times when the film plays things a bit too light
and bubbly for its own good, considering that, deep down, it's about a
social media stalker with a morbid history of abusive behavior.
That, and Spicer crafts a climax and final scene that could have
achieved something horrifyingly memorably, but instead cheats a bit and
brings everything to a somewhat neat and tidy ending; the ambiguities of
what's to come are indeed tantalizing, but it's a cop-out denouement that
never seems to trust the underlining material that came before.
Fortunately, INGRID GOES WEST is thoroughly compelling because of
Plaza's layered and frightening performance as well as for how it points a
large finger wag of shame to those that live and breath by every hashtag
they see online. The topical
themes here are - ahem! - #scarystuff.