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ingrid goes west review
An unstable young woman attempts to befriend an internet celeb.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Matt Spicer

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff

ingrid goes west poster

The thirst for fame is nothing new, and movies centred around protagonists desperate to attain celebrity status are as old as cinema itself. The difference between the likes of A Star is Born's Esther Blodgett and The King of Comedy's Rupert Pupkin and the titular lead of Ingrid Goes West is that for Blodgett and Pupkin, recognition was a byproduct of reaching the peak of their respective and debatable talents, while for Ingrid, it's the sum goal. Thanks chiefly to reality TV, we live in a world where a lack of any notable talent is no hindrance to achieving fame. Ask a bunch of children what they want to be when they grow up and a worrying amount will simply reply "famous!"

For some, the desire for fame stems from a need for acceptance. That's the case with Ingrid Thorburn (Audrey Plaza). Discovering an old friend has neglected to invite her to her wedding, Ingrid turns up at the reception and causes a scene, macing the bride in the process. Following a stay at a psychiatric institute, Ingrid is released into the world, and sets her sights on befriending Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a 'social influencer', which in this case means she's someone attractive enough for brands to want to be associated with her.

ingrid goes west

Withdrawing the large sum of cash left to her following her mother's death, Ingrid heads west for Los Angeles and hunts down Taylor. Just like Rita Tushingham in the 1972 thriller Straight on Till Morning, Ingrid steals Taylor's dog as a means of connecting with her, claiming she found the pooch and thus being invited for dinner with Taylor and her struggling artist boyfriend (Wyatt Russell).

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Like most internet celebs, Taylor is all fur coats and no knickers, her lack of talent resulting in a lack of income, and begins to exploit Ingrid's inheritance. Ingrid is initially happy to go along with this, growing a large social media following herself thanks to her association with Taylor, but when another 'it girl' (Pom Klementieff) arrives on the scene, Ingrid is dropped by Taylor, and dark feelings begin to fester inside her once again.

ingrid goes west

If you're reading this review, chances are you found it through some form of social media. Like most things, technology is what you make of it, and while there are elements of the web that make it unappealing, for the most part it's greatly benefitted the world, putting limitless knowledge at the fingers of anyone who can afford a monthly bill and creating an almost classless structure that the real world would do well to catch up with. Fiction however prefers to focus on the negatives of the web, and Ingrid Goes West is another "get off my lawn" luddite treatment of technology. So obsessed with current tech - all 'liking', 'tagging' and 'vaping' - is Matt Spicer's film that it feels like it's immediately dated. In 20 years time it will be as relatable as a movie about the damaging effects of CB radio addiction.

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Ingrid Goes West has an odd tone, veering from the sort of kooky comedy Plaza usually makes her living from to genuinely bleak drama. With its detached, observational viewpoint, it comes off as quite mean-spirited in how it asks us to watch the downward spiral of a mentally troubled protagonist without offering any solutions or even posing many real questions.

ingrid goes west

What saves Spicer's film from devolving into a depressing and completely off-putting experience are the performances of his leads. Playing a character that could easily be merely reprehensible, the sadness behind Plaza's big eyes makes her sympathetic. Olsen, who has long since squandered the promise of her breakout turn in Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene, pulls off the opposite feat, making us detest her airhead social vampire.

Ingrid Goes West makes the sort of point that may have worked better in a sci-fi setting. Indeed we've seen this very subject addressed in a couple of Black Mirror episodes. Tackling its question - if everyone online is so happy, what's wrong with me? - in recognisably current surrounds makes it difficult to view as entertainment, and the result is akin to standing by while forced to watch a troubled young woman drown.

Ingrid Goes West is in UK/ROI cinemas November 17th.