Melbourne 2017 Review: INGRID GOES WEST, Hashtag Essential Satire
Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen star in Michael Showalter's sharp, dark comedy.
Truly great films that exist for the moment tackle relevant and contemporary themes, acting at times as a mirror into our own lives and critically picking apart what makes society function.
It is refreshing, then, that Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West recalls our current narcissistic obsession with social media and is entertainingly filtered through the view of a completely deranged and desperate dame.
Aubrey Plaza, who also shares producing credit, gives her best performance yet as Ingrid, and the typical dourness we expect from her is elevated to new levels of mania. She is a ghoul, completely neglecting her own life after a hinted-at tragedy and focusing only on who has the best Instagram posts and the most followers.
She clings to these victims, people she assumes are her best friends. The cold open of Ingrid Goes West reveals the painful implication when she feels betrayed, namely, a bride-to-be is maced in the face. Sometime after this, Ingrid wastes away in her gossipy little suburb.
She passes the time subconsciously seeking her next obsession. Flipping through a vapid magazine, she lands on an article all about Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene). One quick check on social media later to confirm the number of followers, and Ingrid is hooked. When Taylor posts her latest lunch conquest, Ingrid hilariously drafts some daft responses before settling on asking her if she has made it. Taylor then inadvertently invites Ingrid to LA and the real stalking begins.
There is a wonderful transition from her dreary hometown to the sun-lit beaches and pretenson of LA, the film also focuses on the screen that Ingrid occupies herself with; filling celluloid with emoji’s, likes and a maddening, repetitive mantra voice-over from who she follows that usually ends in 'hashtag blessed', as well as quotes from literature that all prove to be skin-deep.
Director Matt Spicer ensures that Ingrid is never an easy target. Although the film is hilarious, breaking social convention constantly, there is a slight pathos and tragedy to the protagonist, as well as her relentlessness that is strangely endearing.
This is accentuated when Ingrid meets Taylor, her ‘artist’ boyfriend Ezra (Wyatt Russell) and her brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen). Just minutes spent with these people reveal an outpouring of nihilism, selfishness and dishonesty that positions Ingrid as an outsider despite her similar attitude. They are horrible and snake-like, particularly Nicky, who greets people by snapping their photo with his phone. The level of entitlement is worse than the illegal harassment Ingrid plots on everyone else, which enables the satire to really click.
Regardless, Ingrid Goes West is damn funny and the performances serve to highlight the absurdity of how we communicate today, and what we should and should not assume. Case-in-point: when Ingrid plots to get closer to Taylor she uses her chill landlord Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and ‘seduces’ him using his increasingly hilarious allusions to his Batman fandom against him.
This running joke of the caped crusader is yet another highlight in a clever and controlled screenplay that contains some truly dark moments, yet is funny throughout, as the sharp relatable satire and Aubrey Plaza’s slapstick social-phobia propel it to cult greatness. Hit Follow, Like, and Share on Ingrid Goes West.