Ingrid's life is a mess. Her mother has died leaving her a fat inheritance, but she's left in a psychiatric ward after a meltdown at an old friend's wedding. Obsessed with Instagram, hashtags about perfection and happiness and the perfect emoji to use when commenting, she's desperate for a friend, and for someone to notice her (and more importantly ‘like’ her pictures). Discovering the seemingly perfect life of social media sensation Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) in a magazine, she moves to LA to needle her way into Taylor's life, no matter what the cost.
There's a sledgehammer subtle message here: be careful what you share about yourself online. But Ingrid Goes West isn't sermonising and plays its concept for pitch-black laughs almost throughout. It's genius is to make you laugh with recognition at Ingrid’s sad but harmless perpetual liking of other’s Instagram snaps, while in reality she bawls her eyes out with jealousy and loneliness. It shouldn’t be funny, and by the end writers David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer have done a nifty flip-reverse and made sure you care about Ingrid even as her behaviour becomes more repugnant, but ultimately understandable.
Ingrid Goes West is a film about phoniness, from Ingrid’s own antics to the social media celebs that she so idolises. No one here is as perfect as their profile suggests, though director Matt Spicer captures the bohemian chic of those who can afford to live a life shared between hipster cafes in LA and classy getaways in the desert of the Joshua Tree National Park. With its sun-kissed locales, and characters all stuck with their faces in their phones, it’s like an episode of Black Mirror set worryingly in the present.
Even in its portrait of obsession and desperation, Ingrid Goes West is above all else, hilarious. Whether mercilessly mocking ideas about modern art or how people interact on social media, it’s brilliantly well observed and will have you thinking twice about your own use of Instagram. Only O’Shea Jackson Jr. emerges as a really likeable character, but even his obsession with Batman is played constantly for laughs.
Though its ending gets suitably dark, the film doesn’t quite go as sinister or psychotic as you might expect. Despite that, Ingrid Goes West is bright, funny as hell and so full of contemporary razor-sharp insight that it will make many in the audience squirm. Fuelled by Aubrey Plaza’s hysterical performance, it’s almost #perfect.
INGRID GOES WEST / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MATT SPICER / SCREENPLAY: DAVID BRANSON SMITH, MATT SPICER / STARRING: AUBREY PLAZA, ELIZABETH OLSEN, BILLY MAGNUSSEN / RELEASE DATE: 17TH NOVEMBER