For many people, social media has become a ubiquitous part of life. Wake up? Check the Twitter feed. At dinner? Better Instagram the food before digging in. Bedtime? Who sent out a Snapchat story? It was only a matter of time before we got a bunch of movies in theaters that centered on social media and some of the less than desirable effects that it can have on people. Here we have Ingrid Goes West, a movie about a psychologically unbalanced woman who stalks someone on Instagram and becomes her IRL friend … for a while, anyway, before her entire plan starts to unravel.
The stalker is the eponymous Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), who in our opening scene crashes a wedding and maces the bride. She is then committed, because the people who do things like that to people they barely know—the bride was an “Instagram friend,” and even that’s stretching the heights of their relationship—need professional help. Eventually, Ingrid is released and sets her sights on Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), who lives in California. So, Ingrid heads to California, concocts a scheme to befriend Taylor, and, well, she does just that. For a while.
A lot of the movie consists of a bunch of people hanging out and talking. When they’re paying attention to Ingrid, it’s all good. When they’re not, she starts to become unhinged. That, in addition to one character who is introduced seemingly just to stir things up, leads to Ingrid’s plan going awry. The film then gets to opine on the dangers of social media, the lack of legitimacy to everything you see on the various platforms, and our desire for attention—all filtered through the eyes of someone who craves it more than most.
It’s the type of movie that has a point and uses extreme characters—people who exist but are atypical—in order to make it. On one hand, we have Ingrid, the type of fan on social media who will comment on and like every post in hopes that senpai will notice. On the other, Taylor, whose entire life is shared and glamorized with Instagram filters. There’s darkness and deceit on both sides, and Ingrid Goes West does a good job exploring and exposing both personality traits.
Ingrid Goes West is a great movie that focuses on social media and its many downsides.
If that’s the reason you want to watch this movie, then you’ll probably get what you want out of it. If you’re looking for a comedy, you’ll want to look elsewhere. It has a couple of funny moments (most of which are in the trailers) but it’s not a laugh-out-loud riot and it’s not even going for a lot of dark laughs, either. It’s more of a social satire, albeit one that will probably hit too close to home for some members of the audience.
Being more focused on the drama allows for the actors to turn in great performances. Aubrey Plaza isn’t typically thought of as a dramatic actor (perhaps unfairly) but here gets to showcase those chops. She’s great. She captures the manipulative, unhinged, desperate-for-attention aspect wonderfully, especially while under the veneer of a friendly person. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Olsen gets to ham it up a bit as The Best, Most Interesting Woman on Instagram, but once the facade gets dropped we’re reminded why she’s a really good actor.
Ingrid Goes West is a great movie that focuses on social media and its many downsides. It uses extreme versions of people you’d see on the platform in order to make its points, and for the most part is very successful at doing so. It’s not much of a comedy, and it does get a little slow midway through, but it’s smart and engaging enough to pretty easily overcome these factors. And, it can always fall back on the performances of Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen.
Now get a ticket, snap a gram, and tweet it to the cloud. Or whatever it is the kids are doing.
Conclusion: Ingrid Goes West is an effective social satire.
Recommendation: If you’re okay with not laughing too often, Ingrid Goes West is well worth seeing.