Trying to avoid the allure of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and the like can be a tall order. The beck and call of social media has burrowed its way into almost every aspect of daily life. Even more difficult is managing a balancing act in hopes of keeping some semblance of sanity. Today’s pursuit of popularity or fame are ripe for inspection on the big screen. While it attempts to go down this path, Igrid Goes West is too busy focusing on other things, than it is on staying the course.
The best, or at least most focused par,t of Matt Spicer’s debut is an opening section that features a fully formed protagonist at the end of her rope, highlighted by fast, inventive filmmaking. Voiceover from a bubbly bride reads off various Instagram posts concerning her big day. Photos, emojis and quick gifs flash across the screen for mere seconds, painting a picture that deeply upsets Ingrid Thorburn (a stellar Aubrey Plaza).
After an altercation with a woman she “believed” to be her friend, Ingrid makes a quick stop over in a mental hospital before being unleashed back upon the world. Yet, as anyone who has partaken in even a “semi” plugged-in lifestyle is sure to know, the flickering flow of likes, faves, follows or mentions are often too hard to ignore. While reading an aptly named article “Your New Girl Crush,” Ingrid sets about recreating herself, using her late mother’s insurance money to help insert herself into the life of Taylor Sloan (Elizabeth Olsen).Having pertinent information easily at her fingertips, Ingrid sets about patterning her life after Taylor’s, down to the smallest detail, never understanding that personality is an equally important part of the equation. As Ingrid and Taylor get closer, there’s a sense of vulnerability that seems to eek through the cracks and porcelain features.
While the commentary may be lacking at times, every performance helps keep things steadily afloat. Aubrey Plaza dominates the screen, embracing her inner lonely craziness, which is important, seeing as how she is in almost every scene. As her muse/object of obsession/pinnacle of popularity, Olsen slinks into a slightly slimy performance that almost feels too easy for her. Taylor embodies the best and worst aspects that are associated with millennial hipster-ism. It’s easy to see why some may find her alluring, but makes it hard to keep from laughing anytime she tries to wax poetically. As awkward as their connection may be, there’s an innate joy in seeing these two women find a supposed kindred spirit in each other, however flawed the forces that brought them together may be.
Then there are the three main male leads who seem to exist on their own little planet, revolving adjacent to the women. Billy Magnussen plays manic to the hilt as Taylor’s brother, a Joker-esque smile constantly plastered across his face. Wyatt Russell gets the quietest role in the film, as a put-upon husband, resigned to a life he never dreamed of, or even wanted. Then there’s the true standout of the film: O’Shea Jackson Jr. Juggling duties as Ingrid’s landlord and love interest with an almost unhealthy obsession with Batman, Jackson shows that his performance in Straight Out of Compton wasn’t a fluke. With any luck, the two performances he’s turned in are just a small indication of the huge talent he possesses.Both Ingrid and Taylor exist in their own world, where likes & followers are not only hot commodity but can be flaunted about in exchange for good and services that arguably make up the most important, if not damning, trend in the movie. The men, for the most part, are more honestly transparent than their female counterparts. Underneath their adulation and infatuation, they’re capable of looking past the vacant facade. It’s a strange dichotomy that’s set up, though wise, through booze, smoke and coke. Ultimately Nicky, Dan and Ezra are powerless in the face of the ever beckoning glow of the phone.
Moments of satire are peppered throughout, yet are never completely committed to. There’s a nobility in the pursuit Spicer and co-writer David Branson Smith want to explore, concerning the dangers of an internet where anyone can fake every aspect of their life. It’s just let down by half-baked execution. Foisting cringe-inducing comedy to the forefront threatens to lessen the message. It’s also hard to embrace the notion when virtually every character ends the film no worse for the wear. Combined with dancing around real issues of addiction or mental illness in the name of easy observations and quirky charm, it starts to wear thin.
Ingrid Goes West is a dark, biting and often funny film filled with fantastic performances. Unfortunately, just like it’s lead character, it favors being the desire to be liked, more than making a truly lasting impact.