Social media satire makes Aubrey Plaza an insta-star
Like. Like. Like. Every photograph that comes up on Instagram gets the same accolade from Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) – regardless of what it shows or who posted it. Which makes her “liking” anything meaningless. Except that it goes further than that, with her naivete taking her down a more unsettling path, one where she doesn’t understand personal boundaries or the difference between a genuine friend and an online one. And it turns her into a stalker.
But, in case you’re anticipating yet more of this year’s horror glut, Ingrid Goes West takes you down a different road. One full of razor sharp – and sometimes very dark – wit aimed at the cult of social media and its so-called stars and which also boasts some very classy comedy performances.
In writer/director Matt Spicer’s online world, it’s all too easy to become an insta-celeb and the results are all too shallow. Their lives appear to be perfect, the photographs indicating they’re having a wonderful time – smiling faces, great food, lovely locations. There’s no room for the realities of everyday life and that’s what Ingrid doesn’t understand. She just wants that flawless life for herself, one that’s more exciting and glamorous than her own. And the one she picks belongs to the #blessed Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), all sunshine, bo-ho chic and avocado on toast. She even manages to become part of it, although the possibility of being discovered is never more than a “send” away.
Nothing escapes Spicer’s eagle eye when it comes to the addictive nature of social media. Ingrid goes to sleep with her phone in her hand, so it’s still there when she wakes up. She types a message, then tries a handful of different versions before sending the one with the right tone. Admit it! We’ve all done it! And it’s that familiarity that gets the laughs. Lots of them. Social media isn’t the only obsession, though. While you could say that Ingrid is batshit crazy in her way, her likeable landlord, Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jnr), is Batman crazy: he has all the merchandise, the movies, the quotes, the lot. Just a loveable nerd, then? Maybe – but he’s not alone in worshipping the Caped Crusader. Not by a long shot!
Dan aside, the focus of the film is the Ingrid/Taylor double act, with Plaza and Olsen both perfectly cast. While Olsen’s Taylor is horribly superficial, Plaza is especially good as the needy and disconcerting Ingrid who, surprisingly, is also the character on the screen most in touch with reality. The laughs are consistently acute, but we’re never allowed to forget there’s a serious thread running right through the story, one that never lets up. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the final frames deliver a weak conclusion, one that can only be described as a cop-out.
If 2017 is turning out to be a good year for horror, then comedy is coming up fast on the outside. After The Big Sick and Logan Lucky, Ingrid Goes West makes it a triple whammy. Despite ending on a whimper, its pin-point observations hit the target with unerring accuracy, making it one of this year’s best laughs. It’s very much a comedy for now.
Ingrid Goes West is screened at the London Film Festival on 7, 8 and 14 October and released in cinemas on 17 November.