As a well-made comedy with narrative focus that keeps viewers entertained and enlightened, Ingrid Goes West is amateurish and rambling. But as a creepy cautionary tale about the toll social media is taking on world sanity, this serves as a disturbing indictment of people addicted to something stronger and more dangerous than opioids. It’s a forgettable film, but what it says about the debilitating effect of technological abuse is sickening enough to make you think twice about upgrading your smartphone.
Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is one of those lonely, delusional social media addicts whose only connection with the outside world is an iPhone. She lives her life through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other time-wasting shortcuts to brain damage and intellectual oblivion that absorb people with no sense of personal reality—including our current President. It’s obvious Ingrid a deranged sociopath from the first scene, which shows her spraying mace in the face of a fake friend and online contact who didn’t invite her to a wedding. Next, after emerging from a mental asylum, the dysfunctional Ingrid inherits enough money from her recently deceased mother to move to California to stalk her favorite Instagram celebrity, a pop photographer named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Once she finds new digs on the canals of Venice Beach, Ingrid wastes no time insinuating herself into Taylor’s life, even kidnapping her dog so she can become a hero by returning it. From here the movie gets weirder and creepier as it turns over rocks in the L.A. social scene and examines what crawls out from underneath. Director Matt Spicer, who also wrote the screenplay (with David Branson Smith) trains his eye on the dark side of life in the California sun populated by writers, actors, fashion designers, pop musicians and drug addicts, all superficial and without substance. The characters in Ingrid’s self-destructive and ill-advised new existence include Taylor’s husband (Wyatt Russell), a no-talent artist whose work is as empty and one-dimensional as his hipster lifestyle; Taylor’s cocaine-snorting brother (Billy Magnussen); and Ingrid’s landlord (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), a desperate screenwriter whose limited knowledge of film begins and ends with Batman.
INGRID GOES WEST ★★
The scope of Ingrid Goes West delves no further than Batman movies either. Padding the running time to one hour and 37 minutes, Ingrid borrows a truck to drive Taylor to see the cactuses in Joshua Tree, sniffs up all the coke in the glove compartment, and does $8000 worth of damage as the movie drags itself from one contrived scene to the next. No character compelling enough to sustain interest ever emerges, nothing works out satisfactorily for Ingrid or anyone else, and the whole thing ends as awkwardly as it begins. But as a parody of the phony values of Los Angeles, as well as the bubble-headed obsession with social media that leads all the way to the White House, Ingrid Goes West makes a few valid points. Too bad the whole thing looks more like a tweet than a movie.