Tell me again why she’s sorta famous?
One of the things I most admired about “Ingrid Goes West” was the spot-on depiction of a certain type of Instagram and Snapchat mid-level celebrity who has somehow managed to build an audience of a few hundred thousand followers/fans.
Without any measurable skills.
We’re talking about the physically beautiful individuals (male or female) with the seemingly perfect lives, who are constantly posing for photos on the beach or at the gym or at some gallery opening; sharing pics of themselves cuddling with their significant other; offering “life coach” advice about being the best person you can be each and every day; posting quotes culled from self-help books or attributed to great world leaders, and tagging their entries with “#Blessed” or “#KillerWorkout” or “#InLove” or “#AmazingFarmersMarket.”
Avocado Toast Selfie, anyone?
In the smart and darkly amusing “Ingrid Goes West,” the wonderful Elizabeth Olsen is perfectly cast as an Internet semi-star: one Taylor Sloane, a pretty and relatable and sunny trendsetter living the seemingly perfect life.
Taylor lives with her supportive, sensitive-artist, man-bun husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell) in Venice Beach. While Ezra works on his “found objects” art (Ezra’s pieces are so dreadful we want to advise him to cut off the man-bun and sell his hair for a few bucks, just so he can contribute to the partnership), Taylor continues to build her brand as a lifestyle guru.
Here’s the thing, though. As you might have surmised from the title, “Ingrid Goes West” isn’t primarily about Taylor — it’s told mostly from the point of view of Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid, an unbalanced and lost Pennsylvanian in her 20s who suffers great humiliation in her hometown and latches onto an Internet obsession with Taylor (who makes the mistake of responding to one of Ingrid’s Insta comments) as a way of making a comeback.
Staked with a cash windfall she received from a personal tragedy, Ingrid sets off for California with the singular goal of meeting and befriending Taylor, and thanks to some basic Internet research skills and Ingrid’s willingness to commit crimes and misdemeanors in the name of “accidentally” meeting Taylor, it doesn’t take long for Ingrid and Taylor to become besties.
(And why not? Yes, Ingrid is an Internet stalker — but Taylor doesn’t know that. Besides, Taylor herself is Fake News. Little wonder she’d gravitate to someone like Ingrid, who does nothing but praise her and validate her life.)
I loved Ingrid’s relationship with her landlord Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), who is at least as delusional as Ingrid, given his wildly unsubstantiated belief he’s writing the next “Batman” movie.
But for all of Dan’s goofiness, at least he’s a real human being who will be there for Ingrid when she needs him.
Aubrey Plaza is a sensation as Ingrid, who is alternately charming and sad and pathetic and absolutely insane. Plaza has a unique and magnetic screen presence that creates great empathy, even when she’s portraying a mostly off-putting character.
Director and co-writer Matt Spicer displays just the right touch as the story gets crazier. We never lose sight of Ingrid’s stalker ways and her unbalanced state — but Taylor and Ezra and Taylor’s brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen) and their so-called friends are such vapid, self-obsessed, social media vampires, we stay on Ingrid’s side.
Because at least Ingrid has a soul.
Neon presents a film directed by Matt Spicer and written by Spicer and David Branson Smith. Rated R (for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content and disturbing behavior). Running time: 97 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.