“Ingrid Goes West” is a comedy about our obsession with social media. That may seem too obvious a target for sharp satire, but the movie is sly enough, dark enough, and witty enough to pull it off.
Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid, a celebrity stalker who stalks not real (traditional) celebrities, but Instagram celebrities, people who amass huge followings by doing nothing other than posting on Instagram.
Ingrid moves to Los Angeles (from Pennsylvania) in pursuit of one of these social media stars – Taylor Sloane, played by Elizabeth Olsen. Here she visits a restaurant Sloane has posted about.
“What is your biggest emotional wound?” the waiter says as he greets her.
She avoids the question and instead inquires about her “friend.”
“I’m actually meeting a friend for lunch here. Have you seen her?”
“Oh yeah, Taylor Sloane … she was actually here like an hour ago. You said you were meeting her here for lunch?”
“Oh. God. I must have gotten the time wrong. So stupid. Do you remember what she ordered?”
The scene’s punchline is that when Ingrid tries to eat whatever Sloane ordered, she gags and has to spit it up.
Ingrid eventually concocts a fake scenario in which Sloane befriends her. And they do indeed become friends, to a degree.
In one scene, they go for a drive out of town and convince an unwitting gas station attendant to take their picture, you know, for Instagram.
“Wait, actually, don’t smile. And if you hold your bag down like this it might look better, and even at an angle.”
In addition to the natural dramatic tension over whether Ingrid will get exposed as a fraud, the film benefits from Plaza’s ability to bring some psychological depth to her otherwise comic character. Sure, that aforementioned waiter is being mocked for asking such an inappropriate personal question — “What is your biggest emotional wound?” — but it’s clear Ingrid is herself wounded.
The movie takes a dark screwball comedy turn near the end, but for the most part, “Ingrid Goes West” has a lot of fun sending up the shallow, pretentious, and fake world promulgated by social media.
The real bite comes when you realize that world is only a slight exaggeration of the way the world’s been for a long, long time.