Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is a young woman with serious issues. Desperately lonely and hopelessly addicted to social media, she feels decidedly miffed when one of her ‘online friends’ has the temerity to get married without bothering to invite her. Most of us would shrug this off, but not Ingrid – she turns up at the wedding reception and treats the bride to a faceful of Mace. Needless to say, it doesn’t go down at all well.
After paying the price for her transgressions, Ingrid heads home to an empty house. We learn that her sick mother has recently passed away after a long illness, that Ingrid has spent the last few years caring for her, and that Mom has left her only daughter a considerable sum of money in her will. Leafing through a magazine one day, Ingrid chances upon an article about the woman who will become her latest obsession. Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) is an Instagram ‘influencer’ who appears to be living the perfect boho lifestyle in sunny Los Angeles, with her artist boyfriend, Ezra (Wyatt Russell), and who can’t seem to smash an avocado without photographing it and adding a hashtag. For Ingrid, it’s love at first click – so she makes a cash withdrawal from the bank, buys a plane ticket and heads out to LA, where she rents an apartment from Batman-obsessed wannabe screenwriter, Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jnr). Once settled in she sets about inveigling her way into Taylor’s world, frequenting all the places that feature in her online posts. Pretty soon, she is moving in Taylor’s exalted circles and ingratiating herself with her new ‘friends’ at every opportunity… but will this be enough to satisfy her longing for acceptance?
Ingrid Goes West is a prescient tale, skillfully told, and Plaza offers a powerful performance in the lead role, making us care about Ingrid at every step, no matter how heinous her actions. Olsen is good too, as the vain and exceedingly shallow Taylor – but then, nearly everyone here (apart from the exceedingly sweet-natured Dan) is as shallow as a kiddies’ paddling pool. I particularly like the examples we are shown of Ezra’s ‘art’, which consists of a single word printed onto a ‘found’ image (i.e. nicked from other photographers). Everything in this world, it transpires, is fake.
The script, co-written by director Matt Spicer, gleefully eviscerates the world of the online glitterati, people so obsessed with their own style that they seem to have lost their humanity. In less assured hands, this could so easily have been a dark and miserable descent into despair, but that sparkling script – and an unexpectedly upbeat conclusion – actually makes this a must-watch.