Here’s what the data tells us, data that “Ingrid Goes West” taps into and uses to its evil advantage.
We are the most plugged-in and connected we’ve ever been. And yet, “loneliness” is the cancer of our epoch, now and extending broader and deeper into the future than we can even imagine.
“Celebrity” has become the most devalued word in the English language, largely through the qualifying prefix “Internet.”
And Aubrey Plaza, if she wasn’t voted “Most likely to Social Media Stalk” in her high school, that’s only because social media then wasn’t what Social Media is now.
“Ingrid” is a dark/darker/darkest comedy about a broken, mentally unstable young women who looks at her Instagram (in this movie’s case) feed and weeps. The way we all do. Because, dammit, everybody is having a better time/living a richer life than we are.
When we meet Ingrid (Plaza), she’s taken that last digital Internet straw — somebody she knows has gotten married, Instagrammed a year’s worth of wedding prep, and not invited her to the nuptials. Ingrid goes over the edge, crashing the party and making a scene. Medication and psychiatric supervision is in order.
But she’s made the faintest of “connections” with an “Internet celebrity,” America’s latest web “girl crush,” the magazines assure her. Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) is, her profile reassures us, a “Treasure Hunter, Castle Builder and Proud Angelino.” And she’s living the life we all want — Venice Beach, hip parties for the young and hip, meals from restaurants she plugs, clothes from designers/shops Miss “Instafamous” endorses — offhandedly, in that “my best friend says” kind of way.
The word isn’t used, but the beautiful, blond-ish nasal Joan Didion “The White Album” fan is an “influencer,” with enough followers to justify self-promoting/selling-herself to assorted sponsors.
Did you follow the Treasury Secretary’s trophy wife Instagram scandal? She’s like that.
But dizzy, awkward Ingrid doesn’t know. She’s come into a little money, so she resolves to “Go West,” check out the establishments Instafamous Taylor haunts and become her “best friend.”
And damned if her crackpot cunning plan doesn’t work. She gets an apartment — O’Shea Jackson Jr. of “Straight Outta Compton” is her vaping/questioning landlord — finds Taylor, follows her, kidnaps her dog and ingratiates herself into the “IT Girl’s” life.
But of course, that’s when things turn dark, and keeping up with the glamorous poseur (impulsive trips to Joshua Tree, cocaine, party invitations) is tougher than it looks.
Wyatt Russell, so much better here than the ex-hockey player son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell is in “Goon: The Last Enforcer,” is a struggling no-talent artist married to Taylor and leery of her eagerness to sell-out. Billy Magnussen is Nicky, Taylor’s out-of-control but instantly suspicious brother who becomes Taylor’s gatekeeper when he figures out Ingrid’s act.
“That’s like ‘Single White Female’ s—!”
As indeed it is, this comic notion of envying someone else’s life so much you stalk your way into appropriating it.
Here the questions of identity and privacy are irrelevant. If Taylor and her Kardashian ilk don’t want the world to stalk them, maybe they should stop sharing every detail of their daily lives with millions.
What stings in this Matt Spicer/David Branson Smith comically chilling satire is the obscene, unspoken social bartering system that has this web celeb glomming onto another web celeb who has more “followers.” Whatever Ingrid’s doing, we soon start to wonder if the effortlessly hip and connected Taylor didn’t do it before her.
Earlier generations would have gone red in the face at the concept of “following” anyone, but not these millennials. Oh no.
Plaza dials down the vampy image — just a smidgen — for Ingrid, a needy, desperate and in the right lighting and dowdy attire, just…ordinary twentysomething. In the extreme. And she may be crazy, but she realizes it.
Olsen exaggerates her natural “Olsen” family (Remember who her sisters are) nasal twang, gives Taylor the arrogance of the true social (media) climber and creates a fine narcissist who makes her self-absorbed ways pay, a great villain.
“Oh my God I LOVE you, You’re amazing! I’m sorry, am I talking AT YOU?”
Jackson gives Dan the landlord a street-wise edge with a laid-back chaser, caught up in Ingrid’s fantasy, maybe a little too into his vaping to realize his place as a pawn in her master plan to get in tight with these “phonies.”
The writer and director are more intent on defying “Single White Female” expectations than delivering a third act coup de grace that sticks. But “Ingrid Goes West” is still a wickedly on-target cautionary tale about whom we let “influence” us and just how little is to be gained by looking “West,” much less going there.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content and disturbing behavior
Case: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell
Running time: 1:37