Ingrid Goes West
By Alexa Epstein
Seemingly a millennial take on the previous classic Single White Female (1992), Ingrid Goes West is surprisingly original and wholly funny.
Ingrid Goes West opens on Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) who, after working herself into a FOMO-induced frenzy via some Instagram stalking, pepper sprays a bride for not inviting her to her wedding. Ingrid spends a brief stint in a mental institution before returning home to her deceased mother’s inheritance where, clearly not having learned her lesson, she finds a new obsession in L.A. Instagram star, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). This obsession leads her to L.A., where Ingrid befriends Taylor through a series of schemes, taking advantage of her Batman-obsessed landlord, Dan, played endearingly by O’Shea Jackson Jr. The façade cracks when Taylor’s brother, Nicky, shows up to expose Ingrid, while Taylor drifts from girl crush to girl crush, leaving a heartbroken Ingrid in the dust. While Ingrid’s lies and obsession are under threat of being exposed, Taylor, whose curated life seems picture perfect on screen, is editing and cropping out more than expected. Her “artist” husband has never sold a painting, her “charming” brother is an addict, and her vegan muffins are much less appealing than they look on Instagram.
The film does a masterful job of portraying our obsession with social media, our social reverence for Instagram celebrities/influencers, and the malleability of individuality as a result of this, with a kind of black humor that plays well with Plaza’s stellar timing and signature eye rolls. The various caricatures of Los Angeles are played on in a style similar to Portlandia. Between vaping, screenplay-writing, marijuana-enthusiast Dan, and Taylor’s “artist” husband Ezra (fit with a man bun), Ingrid Goes West hilariously exposes the stereotypical “L.A. Millennial” landscape. When asked what she does for a living, Taylor labels her Instagram influencer lifestyle as “photography,” which we later learn to not even be true when Taylor directs a poor gas station worker into taking dozens of pictures of herself and Ingrid (#SquadGoals?).
In spite of all its humor, Ingrid Goes West allows Plaza to be vulnerable in a way we’ve never seen before. Beneath her stalkerish exterior, Ingrid is very clearly a lonely woman. Plaza brings this depth to every scene, giving Ingrid a sympathetic edge, despite how crazy she gets. The film also raises questions about the use of social media to curate our lives and the issue of authenticity, but it leaves these questions open for the viewer to ponder. Above all, instead of another take on a tired trope, Ingrid Goes West turns out to be a fantastic story with humor, depth, and a lack of preaching about the dangers of the Internet.
Originally published 10/18/17