“Where’s my phone?”
Those three words, in today’s age, are enough to send collective shivers down most of our spines. They’re our lifeline to everything and everyone. In Matt Spicer’s darkly funny Ingrid Goes West, those words have a considerably more sinister meaning when uttered by its central character Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza). We may feel useless without our devices. Yet it provides her with her only feeling of usefulness and takes that in uncomfortable directions.
Ingrid is a lonely and mentally disturbed figure who finds solace through Instagram scrolling and fixating on certain profiles. We first find her ❤️ing the endless wedding posts of someone we assume is her friend. When she crashes said wedding (these things happen in real-time nowadays) and frighteningly confronts her for not being invited, it turns out they’re not really connected at all.
The second part of the title comes into play when Ingrid’s next fixation is Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), a Venice Beach native who’s essentially a professional Instagram poster. Ingrid uses her inheritance from her mom’s death to move across the country with the idea of making her acquaintance. It works and it takes a dognapping to do it. She actually does befriend Taylor and her starving artist hubby (Wyatt Russell).
There’s not an action taken here by Ingrid that isn’t directly a result of her considerably loneliness and need for friendship, no matter how fake or manufactured it is. Her Batman obsessed landlord (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) becomes a love interest, but only for Ingrid’s self-serving purposes. The character of Taylor’s brother (Billy Magnussen, memorable here) is a sleazy loose cannon, but he’s the only one that manages to see Ingrid for who she is.
Spicer and his co-writer David Branson Smith have certainly concocted a screenplay for its time. While there are laughs present, Ingrid goes into Single White Female territory (that quarter century old pic is name checked).
Plaza is a gifted performer who seems to be in a constant state of ambivalence in many of her roles. Ingrid gives her an opportunity to show a more varied range of emotions. She creates a character that is sympathetic to a point, but she also serves as good reminder to not talk to strangers. Even on Instagram.
The film also cleverly shows what we all kind of already know. These social media platforms are a way to create yourself in many instances and not be yourself. In the conclusion of Ingrid Goes West, our title character has a rare moment to be herself. That might be a moment of triumph in many pictures. In this jet black comedy, we’re left uncertain just how well or badly that could go.
*** (out of four)