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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Ingrid Goes West movie review: an antisocial-media story

Ingrid Goes West green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Bitter, snide, and ultimately brutal, exactly the movie about social media we deserve; a satire that is barely satirical. Aubrey Plaza is hashtag savage.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movie about women; love Plaza and Olsen
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

This bitter, snide, and ultimately brutal Ingrid Goes West is exactly the movie about social media we deserve right now. Of course it’s a black comedy, a take-no-prisoners smackdown of mass delusion and fantasy as fostered by the likes — and the Likes — of Facebook and Instagram. It’s All About Eve for the digital age.tweet

Elizabeth Olsen perfectly oozes the bland cloying mush of a generic white girl with aspirations of being anointed the next Gwyneth Paltrow.

Aubrey Plaza (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Monsters University) is savagetweet as Ingrid Thorburn, a lonely dormouse hell bent on giving her life the only sort of meaning she understands: that which comes from the validation of the thousands of “friends” who worship a social-media star. So she heads to sunny Los Angeles from someplace that is drab and horrible and not LA, and cyberstalks — and then IRL-stalks — Instagram princess Taylor Sloane, whose life is (apparently) a neverending bliss of clean eating and scented candles and expensive designer handbags, hashtag sponsored. Elizabeth Olsen (Captain America: Civil War, Godzilla) so perfectly oozes the bland cloying mush of a generic white girl with aspirations of being anointed the next Gwyneth Paltrow that we simply assume that her character’s name probably isn’t even Taylor Sloane, if we’re gonna be honest about it, and that she most likely assembled it from the logos off a couple of boutique shopping bags. In a collective headspace where everyone is pretending to be cooler and wealthier and happier than they are, it is the work of mere moments — and a few awful deeds that can allow for pretensions toward authenticity — for Ingrid to slip her way into Taylor’s inner circle and immerse herself into the unsuspecting poseur’s fug of affected glam. Really, these two pretty much deserve each other.

“What, no, a photo of me to post on Instagram? Please, no, don’t...”

“What, no, a photo of me to post on Instagram? Please, no, don’t…”tweet

Filmmaker Matt Spicer — making his feature debut as writer (with David Branson Smith, also a newbie) and director — pulls off that trick that is so essential in movies about characters like Ingrid: he (and Plaza, of course) keep toying with our sympathy so that we don’t quite know until the very final moment of the movie how we feel about her, whether we like her and pity her, or despise her and wish her the worst. Her awkwardness in trying to fit in — even if it’s fitting in to an unrealistic place — and her desperation to make friends — even if those friendship are as fragile as soymilk meringue — are so palpable that it’s painful. Is she oddly poignant, or just an awful, awful person?tweet Even at the end, when her future path seems clearly laid out before her, she may challenge us in either direction.

Ingrid’s appalling adventures happen in the wake of tragedy that seems to have pushed her off an edge, so that you can pretend, if it makes you feel any better, that only someone who is truly unhinged could behave as Ingrid does. (We are offered no rationale for Taylor’s flights of digital delusion, and yet she’s not so different from Ingrid.) But the zing of Ingrid Goes West’s ending is sharp, ironic, very cutting… and all too plausible. Ingrid is barely satirical at all.tweet

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other theatrical releases.

green light 5 stars

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Ingrid Goes West (2017) | directed by Matt Spicer
US/Can release: Aug 11 2017
UK/Ire release: Nov 17 2017

MPAA: rated R for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content and disturbing behavior
BBFC: rated 15 (very strong language, drug misuse, suicide references)

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Nina

    Dayum, 5 stars! I’ll have to check this out.

  • I went to see this movie last week, because, like you, I’m desperate for movies about women. How desperate? I’ve seen Wonder Woman 4 times in the theater this summer because it cheers me up. And, like you, I have been on social media a while and have seen a lot of the weirdnesses around it.


    Ultimately, I found all the female characters so unlikeable, I couldn’t take it.

    The main nice characters are the landlord (Dan) and, to a lesser degree, Ingrid’s husband (Nicky Sloan). The women are just all reprehensible loons. There’s nothing even slightly redeeming about any of them.

    If it was a successful satire, I think it would have been fine, but it failed miserably as a satire.

  • Ezra is Taylor’s husband. Nicky is Taylor’s brother, and he’s more reprehensible than everyone else put together.

    I still haven’t figured out how I feel about Ingrid or Taylor. Ingrid’s bad acts, though quite bad indeed, come from a place of desperation. Taylor is all surface—that’s how the movie presents her from the beginning—and yet …


    … During the confrontation scene, after Taylor has cut Ingrid off, Taylor’s anger over being lied to seems genuine. She’s as fake as they come, and yet she values truth and sincerity in others. That’s interesting.

    They’re not stellar people to say the least, and I can’t quite hate either of them.

  • ketac6

    Looking forward to seeing this. I’d probably watch most things with Aubrey Plaza in but a good review makes it even better.

  • Sorry, you’re quite right that I confused Ezra (kind of OK) and Nicky (another loon).

    Somewhere, there’s got to be someone who’s a little “normal.” That normal person may have been Dan, but he let Ingrid walk all over him.

  • RogerBW

    I’m also biast (pro) for Plaza, but I’m also glad that (at least from the trailers) she seems to be stretching a bit from the Standard Aubrey Plaza Role.

  • Danielm80

    What’s a Standard Aubrey Plaza Role? I started following her because of Legion and had no idea she’d been typecast.

  • Bluejay

    My guess would be any role that is essentially a variation of April Ludgate from Parks and Rec. Not that that’s a bad thing.


  • I found all the female characters so unlikeable

    They *are* unlikeable. Characters don’t always have to be likeable (although of course YMMV), but they do have to be *interesting* and worth spending time with. I found this to be true for these women. And the fact that it’s the men who are “nice” and “longsuffering” next to the women is precisely how women are very often treated by movies about awful men.

  • She is.

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