Ingrid Goes West
The paradox of today’s society is that we live in a technological world that easily connects us, while technology simultaneously isolates us. We live in cocoons, wrapped in our cellphones and other devices that link us to other people without the messiness off person-to-person contact. And that is the crux of “Ingrid Goes West,” an indie film that features a bravura performance by the fantastic Aubrey Plaza.
Plaza, who also helped produce the movie, portrays Ingrid, a lonely young woman yearning for friendship and recognition. Ingrid’s world constantly revolves around her smartphone. It is her lifeline — so much so that she confuses online relationships with actual personal interactions.
We first meet Ingrid when she crashes an online friend’s wedding and pepper-sprays the bride for not inviting her. Upon her release from a mental facility, and after the death of her mother, Ingrid takes the $62,000 of the estate and moves to California to feed her obsession with an Instagram celebrity, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), whom she follows.
Ingrid connives to meet Taylor, and they hook up. They begin to hang out and do things together. Ingrid feels on top of the world because she has become a part of Taylor’s orbit. She basks in Taylor’s friendship, living a dream life that is in actuality a lie.
Plaza’s portrayal of Ingrid drives the movie. She creates a character who is desperate, insecure, pathetic and a bit psychotic. Plaza makes you simultaneously feel sorry for Ingrid and uncomfortable being around her. As the movie progresses, Plaza makes you want to reach into the screen and give Ingrid a shake to somehow awaken her to reality. But, even that, you realize, would do no good.
What Ingrid wants from Taylor is unconditional friendship. She wants to be the center of her celebrity pal’s world, and when she slowly discovers that is an impossibility, Ingrid’s psyche begins to shatter. Ingrid also is delusional, ignoring the signs she sees that Taylor’s life is not the perfect bubble she had imagined. There are tensions in her marriage with her artist husband, Ezra, and her brother is a drug-using scrounge.
When Taylor finally learns the truth about Ingrid, she derides her, claiming they were never true friends, that Ingrid was “a freak who found (Taylor) on Instagram.”
The movie’s finale, while laced with irony, also contains its weakest moments, feeling contrived and Hollywood-conventional. That, however, should not deter you from experiencing Plaza’s superb rendering of a damaged individual who believes that, “If you don’t have someone to share things with, what’s the point of living.” The tragedy is that for all her online savvy, Ingrid is wholly unaware or incapable of knowing how to be herself and let others see her as she really is.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.