The perfect casting is a large part of what makes “Ingrid Goes West,” an uncomfortably biting satire of our social media obsessed culture, work. Aubrey Plaza truly becomes Ingrid, an unhinged wallflower turned stalker of the popular boho photographer and self-made Instagram star Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen). While the film doesn’t go quite as dark as I had originally hoped and ultimately fails to live up to the full potential of its timely premise, it’s full of smart humor that by design is made to challenge and disturb.
After a brief stint in a mental hospital for violently attacking a supposed ‘friend,’ Ingrid begins to interact with Taylor online. When she gets a friendly and generic response, Ingrid heads to Los Angeles to meet her new ‘best friend” in person. Things start out just fine with Ingrid obsessing over and copying everything the object of her affection does, from eating at the same restaurants, ordering the same food, and buying the same clothes. An actual friendship eventually develops but when Taylor’s obnoxious bully of a brother (Billy Magnussen) shows up, things take a dark turn.
There are a bevy of first class supporting performances here, from O’Shea Jackson Jr. as a Batman obsessed, pot smoking landlord and Wyatt Russell as Taylor’s unhappy wannabe artist husband. Plaza turns in yet another terrific performance as a pathetically needy narcissist who, while bordering on being an actual sociopath, never goes total “Single White Female” on anybody.
While the film could’ve pushed the envelope even further, it’s still a sometimes thoughtful and savage take on cyber bullying and the emptiness of social media that consumes most of our everyday lives. Through the internet and with myriad social media tools, we can create any persona we wish to be no matter how great our insecurities, hiding behind our Instagram filters and Twitter hashtags and Facebook emojis. What’s the most disturbing about this film is that Ingrid suffers with a serious mental illness but it’s all sort of brushed off in a bevy of “likes.”
There’s your damning social commentary right there.