Review: Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Directed by: Matt Spicer | 98 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff, Hannah Pearl Utt, Joseph Breen, Angelica Amor, Meredith Hagner, Charlie Wright, Dennis Atlas, Malika Williams, Luis Deveze, Jay Speedy Weingarten, Martin Garcia

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’, is how the essay ‘The White Album’ by the Californian writer Joan Didion begins. You could use that sentence as the motto of Matt Spicer’s tragicomedy ‘Ingrid Goes West’ (2017) about an insecure and unstable young woman who struggles to befriend influential Instagram star Taylor Sloane ( Elizabeth Olsen). Didion is Taylor’s favorite writer; tellingly, the author’s worst critics accuse her of navel-gazing; her stories always revolve around herself. Let that be one of the major points of criticism around the whole social media hype. Internet celebrities are only concerned with themselves and their image. Everything revolves around them. If they can “use” you to boost their image, then you’re great. If they no longer need you, you will be unceremoniously pushed aside. Of course that is a bit exaggerated, but that there are an awful lot, especially young people, who let their self-image depend on how many likes they get, and are willing to go far for a perfect online image, is worrying. Recently we see it happening in our own country with singer Dotan and his flock of ‘fake fans’. Everything for the likes…

Aubrey Plaza stars in ‘Ingrid Goes West’ in the title role. Ingrid Thorburn is an insecure young woman who makes her self-image completely dependent on her popularity on social media. Her obsessive behavior had already led to several months of forced admission to a psychiatric clinic, but that apparently did not help much. Because soon she discovers a new ‘victim’ in a magazine, the popular Instagrammer Taylor Sloane. Due to the death of her mother, Ingrid has inherited a good 60,000 dollars and with that money she leaves for California, to be as close as possible to her new ‘BFF to be’. Taylor is an ‘influencer’, promoting restaurants, books and clothing brands. Because she always posts where she is, it turns out that it is not difficult for Ingrid to locate Taylor. With the necessary art and flying skills, she manages to kidnap his beloved dog Rothko (the pretensions are very high). As soon as the ‘missing’ posters appear, she will contact you to say that she has found the animal. She doesn’t need a reward. Or well… when Taylor and her husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell) ask her to join them for a bite to eat, of course she doesn’t refuse. And so Ingrid worms herself deeper and deeper into the life of her idol, and with success. Because before long, Taylor takes her to exclusive parties and expensive country houses, reveals personal secrets, tags her in Instagram photos and calls her “the most amazing person on earth.” But what are those words worth? And what happens when Taylor discovers the obsessive methods Ingrid uses to invade her life…?

‘Ingrid Goes West’ is Matt Spicer’s feature film debut. He not only acts as director, but also wrote the script and turned it into a fresh, twenty-first-century story in which there is room for humor, but in which the tragic undertone is never lost sight of. Spicer takes a critical look at today’s society, where youth is obsessed with their online image. To the outside world they live the perfect life, they always look fantastic (thanks to all kinds of filters of course) and every day is a party. If you’re always on your toes because you’re afraid that others won’t find you fun or interesting enough, it’s not surprising that there are people who are pushed to the limit to fit in. Ingrid is such a person. Her cell phone is glued to her hand, she never lets go of it. This way she won’t miss a new post, update or like. Once she’s in Taylor’s house, everything needs to be photographed. If you are addicted to your phone to a certain extent, then this film may wake you up. Spicer’s criticism is twofold. On the one hand he shows what it can do to vulnerable people when they try so desperately to be liked, on the other hand he shows how empty and manipulated the so-called perfect life of people like Taylor is.

The film is supported by strong performances by Plaza and Olsen. It’s great how Plaza gives her quite twisted and heavily obsessed character, who without hesitation uses the people around her to benefit from it, yet gives something sympathetic. Also O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s son) plays a fine role as Ingrid’s landlord, an aspiring screenwriter with a fascination for Batman. In fact, this Dan is the most genuine and authentic person in the story; with him lies our sympathy. Billy Magnussen as Taylor’s brother Nicky, on the other hand, is a source of irritation. Spicer playfully works his way towards the inevitable climax, which is skimmed off with a wonderfully ironic epilogue. The film is also bathed in a pleasant sauce that stirs up memories of the eighties and nineties. In the nineties there was ‘Single White Female’ (1992), for the Instagram generation there is now the comparable ‘Ingrid Goes West’. Although Barbet Schroeder’s thriller is significantly more exciting, Matt Spicer’s excellent feature debut is no less tragic.

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