Ingrid Goes West is yet another feature-length debut for the summer—this time from director Matt Spicer. It primarily revolves around Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza), a social media stalker who moves to Los Angeles in an attempt to track down and befriend a renowned Instagram celebrity named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), and that’s all I’ll say without delving too much into the plot. To clarify, Ingrid Goes West first caught my interest after one of my favorite film critics praised the movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and the ambitious marketing campaign further sustained it. Upon finally seeing the movie myself, I can safely say that Ingrid Goes West succeeds above and beyond my expectations.
Technically, the film is amazing. Both the cinematography and the editing are fine in their own respects but they’re essential when complementing a movie of this nature. The style is definitely there but it never once felt gratuitous or unnecessary. For example, Ingrid Goes West includes a funny sex scene, yet doesn’t show the actors involved having sex let alone not wearing any clothes. Another group of filmmakers would probably undress their attractive leads but the ones for Ingrid Goes West, including Plaza herself who also serves as one of its producers, did not, which goes to show how much they care about this truly sensitive subject matter. In fact, Spicer knows how to effectively bring the screenplay that he co-wrote with David Branson Smith to life and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The characters and performances in Ingrid Goes West also caught me off guard. Aubrey Plaza delivers a career-making performance as the film’s titular protagonist because even though she plays that awkward Aubrey Plaza character that everyone’s familiar with by now, she’s still able to make me care about her as a person. In fact, I no longer saw the actress portraying Ingrid Thorburn which is a testament to the fantastic direction that Spicer gave her. Elizabeth Olsen is an actress who I’m even less familiar with outside of the two or so Marvel movies that she’s in yet still gives a rather convincing performance as Ingrid’s new celebrity friend Taylor; furthermore, the lavish life that Taylor lives is an excellent juxtaposition to the messier one that Ingrid deals with adding another massive layer to their already excellent dynamic.
The supporting characters in Ingrid Goes West are also surprisingly great. Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. delivers a standout performance as Ingrid’s absent-minded landlord Dan, who plays a significant role while also going in a certain direction that I was not at all expecting; and his on-screen chemistry with Plaza is amazing to say the least. Ingrid Goes West is only the second feature-length production that O’Shea has appeared in and am looking forward to whatever project he stars in next. Similarly, this film shares many parallels to the recent HBO miniseries Big Little Lies in that many individuals are seemingly perfect on the outside but their flawed personality traits begin to show as the plot moves forward; the difference with Ingrid Goes West, however, is that it has an audience POV character that while captivating, still serves as a vessel into this dark, almost dystopian fictional world not too far off from our own.
Writing is arguably where the film shines brightest. I never once lost interest in the story since it’s always front and center even at a rather short ninety-seven-minute runtime. The comedy in Ingrid Goes West is also superb; writers David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer both present hilarious situations throughout as well as numerous obstacles that the main protagonist has to overcome in order to move the plot forward. Most importantly, Ingrid Goes West is a genuinely scathing criticism on several relevant subjects including social media, prejudice, and the power of a smart phone. Many people love to post pictures about what they eat in the morning and essentially live in their phones; Smith and Spicer impose these unusual qualities onto Ingrid and exaggerate them for comedic effect.
Moreover, the film received a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance and I certainly understand why; both writers tackle social media in a way that never once felt ham-fisted or even preachy. Conversely, Ingrid Goes West isn’t for everyone and it will surely divide audiences especially in regards to the ending, which I obviously won’t spoil. If anything in this trailer seems interesting, then go ahead and see it, but don’t watch the most recent red band trailer because that gives away many of the best jokes; to be fair, they still work in the context of the film, but going in blind is probably better anyway.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
Ingrid Goes West is undoubtedly my favorite movie of the year and it will presumably stay that way at least until award season rolls around the corner. Speaking of which, I don’t see the film receiving Oscar nominations outside of Best Original Screenplay and possibly Best Lead Actress for Aubrey Plaza; nevertheless, the focused direction, excellent performances, and uncompromising screenplay are just some of the reasons that Ingrid Goes West is worth the price of admission. Unless more people go out and support this film, it will receive a small cult following at best once the theatrical run officially wraps up.