Rating: A really enjoyable B with a Valencia filter.
Summary: A social media stalker seeks her new best friend on Instagram.
Ingrid Goes West really surprised me with how much I liked it. It was one of those movies that quietly came out over the summer, surprised people with its likeability, and left quickly, so when it popped up on Hulu, I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. IGW was delightfully entertaining, amusing, tongue-in-cheek, and thoughtful in its entire presentation.
IGW is a simple tale with a simple premise, simple characters, etc. Starring Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid, IGW is a tale about a woman who lives through her phone. Specifically, she spends her lonely days liking the most Instagrammy Instagrams (you know which ones), seeing the InstaGals she wants to be friends with and the lives she wants to live. But nay, this is not just a story about envy- Ingrid actually attempts to seek out friends from the app, reading too far into comments and replies as invitations. She begins to worm her way into Taylor’s life (Elizabeth Olsen)- moving all the way to Los Angeles to do so.
GET IT. INGRID. GOES. WEST. It’s pretty clever as she uses this as a hashtag for an early picture. IGW challenges how perception works and the role of a literal outsider- viewing, judging, living life through screens. It’s an engaging movie, humorous with just enough dark undertones to make its points known.
The film is cemented with an outstanding performance by Plaza as our title character. She gives Ingrid’s simple language a huge amount of depth. While there’s the humor Plaza is known for acing, she also provides a sense of longing, loneliness, and naivete needed to make Ingrid a likable character with mental health concerns, deserving of sympathy. One of the most important and impressive feats Plaza pulls off is making Ingrid relatable while simultaneously establishing the boundaries of why her actions are going too far. We might not have responded in the same way, but we can understand where her loneliness comes from. We might not force our way into a party, but we can relate to the emotions of not being invited. Plaza’s Ingrid is accessible in her internalized thoughts and actions, with the smallest glances and shifts in movement more meaningful than a typical performance.
Generally speaking, the acting in IGW is very, very good. I’ve been a fan of Olsen’s since the American version of Old Boy and was interested in seeing how she would handle a more superficial role- she plays the perfect So Cal Gal you envy but simultaneously may find annoying. She gives just enough cheeriness and aloofness so we can admire her in the same way her followers do. O’Shea Jackson, Jr. also shows up as Ingrid’s love interest, a landlord, an aspiring screenwriter, and Batman fanatic. I’m also buying into Jackson (Straight Outta Compton) as more than Ice Cube’s son- having seen him in two vastly different roles, I’m interested in seeing what else he can do… apparently, his next project is a Godzilla sequel!
The cast makes the most out of the simple script, giving the cast vibrancy and hints of IRL people we all may know ourselves. What I really liked about IGW’s cast is that while Ingrid gets close to all the characters, it never feels like we want to know more about them or what happens to them- it’s appropriate that we learn just enough about them so that we see where Ingrid seizes her opportunities and where she oversteps. When the whole thing falls apart, everyone shifts tones immediately but it all feels very natural and not out of place.
My only issue with the movie is that it doesn’t have much of a resolution. No spoilers, but with all of its commentary on seeking validation over an intangible, somewhat arbitrary source, IGW lacks closure. It ends rather abruptly. Perhaps a cyclical feel is what they were looking for. I mean, Instagram itself is just refreshing a bunch of pictures. While I don’t think IGW is as poignant or insightful as other technology-commentary pieces such as Her, it definitely speaks to and about its own demographics in a fairly surface-level manner which fits its subject manner. Overall, an enjoyable little movie that leaves you pondering at the end.