Alfred Hitchcock meets the Instagram generation in Matt Spicer’s comically depraved cautionary tale for the avocado toast generation, with a revelatory performance by Aubrey Plaza.
The term “millennial” is very much a buzzword these days – when it’s not being used as a neutral classification term, it’s used as the scapegoat for certain things being “ruined”, like wine, porn, and dinner napkins. But, while millennials may be ruining just about everything else on the planet, one of those things is certainly not film, and Ingrid Goes West is a stellar demonstration of how millennialism, with all its quirks alien to the older generation, can still serve as a fantastic base for film without, well… ruining it.
Ingrid Goes West is helmed by Aubrey Plaza on top form, in what is perhaps her best role yet. Plaza is known for playing certain types of characters very well, namely grumpy, snarky, independent-minded women a la April from Parks and Recreation. But her role as the titular Ingrid Thorburn is distinctive – Ingrid is also bitter, with a debilitating addiction to social media, and a predilection for becoming obsessed with the seemingly perfect lives of people on social media. After assaulting a woman she followed on Instagram for not inviting her to her wedding (despite not even knowing her), Ingrid packs up, moves to Los Angeles with her deceased mother’s inheritance, and attempts to start anew, while also attempting to weasel her way into her new Instagram idol’s social circle.
a potent snapshot of the younger generation’s lives as they are
The object of Ingrid’s fervent worship this time is an Instagram influencer named Taylor Sloane (played adeptly by Elizabeth Olsen), a quintessential LA girl replete with wavy ombré-d hair and regular avocado toast dates at quaint hipster cafés. After the two have several encounters thanks to Ingrid’s secret machinations, the two become “best friends”, with as much heft to their relationship as those two words can have in this day and age. Eventually, Ingrid’s place in Taylor’s social circle is threatened by the arrival of Taylor’s brother Nicky, whose own actions leave Ingrid with no choice but to fight tooth and claw to retain the glamour of the artificial life that she has built for herself.
Ingrid Goes West is a fantastic, all-rounded look at the rise of social media influence as a form of status in the world today, as well as the psychology behind the power that social media and perfect appearances can exert over certain people; all packed into a compact 97-minute comedy. It is also a potent snapshot of the younger generation’s lives as they are – and the fact that they orbit around social media is treated as a fact of circumstance rather than something to be condemned at every turn. Laughs abound throughout the entire film as Aubrey Plaza’s signature deadpan punchline delivery, combined with her complete immersion into Ingrid’s different facets, paint a completely believable portrait of what it means to live with social media today without any of the “damn these millennials!” rhetoric that the older generation and the media often spew. Plaza’s spectacular acting and characterisation is in turn backed up by Olsen’s own role; her obviously artificial cheer and the extreme degree to which social media has been integrated into her life acting as the perfect antithesis to Ingrid’s own earnest, albeit obsessive, conduct when it comes to friendship.
it subverts the idea that any movie tackling such millennial-orientated issues must be shallow and vapid
Perhaps the only problem with Ingrid Goes West is that the movie does not dare to go far enough with its twisted, zany premise. For a cross between Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and reality TV such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the film has plenty of room to unleash more havoc than it ultimately does, leaving viewers with a resounding sense of dissatisfaction when the film finally resolves itself in a smart, yet strangely flaccid, manner. The film’s shrewd commentary on the dawn of the social media revolution and the governing power that appearances have over all our lives is still present, but in terms of sheer entertainment value, the ending falls flat, and it almost feels as if Ingrid has not been put through enough when the movie reaches its conclusion.
As a character study, however, Ingrid Goes West certainly excels, and is undoubtedly a film that anyone with an active Instagram account should watch. Brimming with laughs and tackling the contemporary twin spectres of social media and public image, it subverts the idea that any movie tackling such millennial-orientated issues must be shallow and vapid. In fact, it could even be a window into digital culture as it stands today – and such a keen look at the issue should leave viewers feeling very #blessed indeed as they walk out of the theatre.
‘Ingrid Goes West’ will screen at London Film Festival 2017, taking place from 4th to 15th October. Information and tickets here.