Ingrid Goes West, A Dark Comedy For The Social Media Age

by Ben Martin

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, you know that we now live in an age where social media rules the day. More often than not, you’ll see someone aimlessly walking around, heads down on their device, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re about to run into a pole. No doubt, these folks are checking one of the many social media accounts they have to see who’s “Liking” or “Retweeting” what. At some point, social media evolved from something relatively pointless that you sometimes post on, into an integral part of people’s lives. The new dark comedy, Ingrid Goes West, examines this phenomenon.

Ingrid Goes West follows the titular character, played by Aubrey Plaza. Recently, Ingrid has had a rough go of it. Her mother, whom she was very close to and lived with, has passed away. Shortly after that, Ingrid becomes obsessed with someone she’s following on social media, but barely knows them in-person. Obsession quickly turns to her stalking and committing an assault. These actions land Ingrid in a mental health facility for (presumably) several months.
Upon her return home, Ingrid has no family and no friends. She only has her phone, Instagram, and a $60,000 check left to her by her late mother. However, Ingrid quickly finds solace in an Instagram “influencer” named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Not surprisingly, Ingrid rashly decides to use her new monetary gains to move out to LA and befriend Taylor. She does just that, and things get dark from there.

Plaza’s disturbed yet likable heroine is supported by an equally entertaining cast of characters; the cast includes Taylor’s spoiled and coked-up brother, Nicky (Billy Magnussen) and his designer/model girlfriend, Harley (Pom Klementieff). Then there are my two favorite supporting characters, Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Ezra (Wyatt Russell). Dan is Ingrid’s landlord who is an aspiring screenwriter obsessed with Batman Forever (1995) who is currently working on an, “Unauthorized eighth installment in the Batman franchise.” Ezra is Taylor’s husband as well an artist who does not participate in social media.
I appreciate these two as they were humorous and reminded me of myself in certain ways. Particularly Russell’s character whom (much like the actor who plays him) does not participate in social media. Aubrey Plaza also surprised me because while I liked her well enough in the past, I found her funny; but not versatile. Personally, I  previously thought she only had two notes. Those being dry and darkly humorous or a bit of an oddball.
In Ingrid, though, Plaza gives quite a performance. I found that she did more than just rely on her aforementioned skill-set. On the contrary, she expanded on those and went beyond them. Her performance covers the emotional gamut; managing to make us feel sympathy for her; while at the same time being disturbed by her character.

There are a couple of references to Single White Female (1992) in this film. But, this is not an updated version of that ’92 flick for the social media age, nor is it exploitative, which Single White Female is rightfully accused of being. Instead, I found Ingrid Goes West to be much more intelligent and suspenseful. Ingrid manages to be darkly humorous while examining severe issues and how they play in the twenty-first century.
The film leads us down the path to an ambiguous ending, one that left me to wonder if the film is simply a dark satire of the age in which we live; or, if is it an indictment against social media and its role in society. Neither the filmmakers nor the cast have spoken on this matter, so it can be left open to interpretation. Aside from a bit of lag and predictability in the middle; I recommend Ingrid Goes West. No matter what your relationship with social media, this movie can be appreciated. So instead of always checking on your #SnapFaceTweetGram, why not go and see this instead? It’s now playing nationwide!

FUN FACT: Also, concerning the cast for all you MCU fans out there;. you may have noticed that this film features Plaza who played in last year’s Marvel TV series, Legion. As well as Elizabeth Olsen who was featured in Winter Solider, Age of Ultron, and Civil War. Lastly, there is Pom Klementieff, from this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Both Olsen and Klementieff will also appear together in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.

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