Film Review: "Ingrid Goes West" takes instagram-stalking to a whole new level
Smartphones have become our best friends. That awkward moment at a party when you have no one to talk to? Check your phone. Waiting for your dinner date to show up? Check your phone. Bathroom break while at the office? Yep. They have become an obsession with millennials, with 25% spending five hours a day glued to their screens. Instagram celebrities, those who are considered to be #Instafamous, are able to create a ‘brand’ based on their life. Photos of brunch dates, concerts, and boat trips are all accompanied by carefully selected hashtags and emojis to create the image of a perfect life.
Matt Spicer attempts to tackle this in Ingrid Goes West, his directorial debut. Described as Single White Female for the social-media generation, the film focuses on Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza), a social media addict/stalker. The audience is first introduced to Ingrid frantically liking posts on Instagram before crashing a wedding and macing the bride for not inviting her. Her level of obsession is revealed: She only knew the bride through her Instagram feed. After a brief stint in a psychiatric facility, Ingrid is released and finds a new obsession: Instagram celebrity Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). The next step is clearly to move to California and visit all of Taylor’s favourite restaurants and stores until they bump into each other and become best friends. All this in the first ten minutes of the film.
I went into this film expecting Plaza to play the role she always does: sarcastic and deadpan. However, there is some departure from this, with Ingrid showing real vulnerability in between her manic episodes. I was concerned by how much I could relate to her at certain parts of the movie. Haven’t we all spent too long looking at someone’s Facebook profile at one point or another? Or looked up a tinder date on social media before actually meeting them? I sincerely hope we’ve all had a moment of overthinking whether to post “hahahaahah” or “heh heh” as a response. If not, I’m in trouble. Ingrid is clearly a woman with some serious issues, but by the end of the film, we find ourselves rooting for her.
O’Shea Jackson Jr. moves on from playing his father in Straight Outta Compton to the role of Dan Pinto, a struggling screenwriter who has taken a liking to Ingrid. A major component of his character is his love of Batman, and while the initial references were endearing (“You’re supposed to be Catwoman, but you ain’t nothin’ but Two-Face”), by the end they were tired and expected. This aside, he has an enjoyable presence throughout the film, playing the only character who has any actual depth. Jackson Jr. has shown his legitimacy as an actor beyond being regarded as just “Ice Cube’s son”. His charisma made him the standout performer in this film.
Overall, Ingrid Goes West is a solid attempt at social media commentary, and I appreciated that there was no attempt at a true redemption arc. The rest of the cast play their roles well – Olsen is almost too convincing as a #blessed Instagram tastemaker – but there was still something lacking. The set-up of Ingrid moving to California and cementing herself as part of Taylor’s life worked well, but when it came time to advance the plot past general ‘stalker hijinks’, the film struggled. The actual conflict didn’t arise until the Ingrid Goes West reaches the one-hour mark, leaving a rushed attempt to provide the audience with a sense of resolution. For a script that won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance this year, I felt as though the narrative was disjointed at times. Beyond this, the characters just weren’t likeable. An understandable requirement for a film that spotlights the self-obsessed and shallow world of social media, but 97 minutes of it was far too much.
Would I watch it again? No. Would I recommend it for a wine and cheese night with the girls? Yes. Assume what you want with that information.