by Alan Yudman
Swipe up. Double tap. Swipe up. Double tap. If you have ever opened Instagram on your phone you recognize those gestures. Browsing through the people you follow looking at food, selfies, vacation venues and booping the noses of dogs. Apparently it can also be quite a dark place. A place where lonely people live through the experiences of others or only know what is cool because an “influencer” tells them so. While that’s not especially healthy, INGRID GOES WEST takes it to the next level.
The damaged psyche of Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid is apparent from the first scene where we see her sweating and crying in a car while looking at her Instagram friend Cindy’s feed and doing the “swipe, double tap”. And the crazy is confirmed when she barges into Cindy’s wedding to mace her and call her a bitch for not inviting her.
It is both a critique and affirmation of our culture, where social media is great for making connections but all too often replaces human interaction. If your mental state is fragile enough, as Ingrid’s is, you can believe a like is an opening to deeper understanding. Ingrid stares at her phone her thumb swiping, desperate for her new “friend” Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen) to like a comment Ingrid made on a post. When she not only likes it but comments back, Ingrid takes this as an invitation to move to California so they can be friends.
Ingrid appears to crave connections like this because she is alone in the world. Her mother has died and left her enough money to make the move to Venice. She “accidentally” runs into Taylor, she gets her hair done like hers, she buys the same clutch as Taylor because that is the way they can be alike. The crazy keeps ramping up. Stealing Taylor’s dog and returning it to seem like a hero and deepen their connection. Buying a piece of art by Taylor’s husband. Ingrid continues to spiral down a rabbit hole that is filled with killer bunnies.
But, the film also points out how Taylor is a phony. Her husband reveals that books she posts about are really his favorites. Taylor was just a nerdy young woman before she started down her own rabbit hole of phony. So who is sicker? The person living the lie or the person trying to adopt the life of that person. A question you, or your psychotherapist will have to figure out.
The movie works because of Plaza and Olsen. While you recognize Plaza’s crazy, you feel more sorry for her than scared of her. She does things with her eyes and smile that any fan of PARKS AND RECREATION will recognize. Plaza can make crazy seem endearing. Olsen has a chameleon-like ability to fully become the person she portrays whether it’s Taylor or the Red Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The only real “fun” performance is from O’Shea Jackson, Jr. who plays Ingrid’s landlord/love interest.
INGRID GOES WEST hits some very dark themes. But there is a twist at the end which seems to torpedo the whole message the filmmakers (Director and Co-writer Matt Spicer and writer David Branson Smith) had been telegraphing the whole movie. It’s almost like they couldn’t fully commit to a dark ending that the story seems to demand. Even so, INGRID GOES WEST says something that people need to hear and should make you think twice the next time you mindlessly pick up your phone to Tweet or Insta (god I hate that term). Don’t pick up the phone. Go and interact with real people. If you don’t you could be Ingrid.