Ingrid Goes West is a 2017 Sundance film written and directed by the new filmmaking duo Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith about an obsessed and insane Instagram stalker Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) who moves out to LA to befriend a shallow and famous Instagram photographer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). This was the sixth film that I got to see this year at the Sundance Film Festival, and was the only one that i had to waitlist for in order to get into (what an experience THAT was!). The film was one that I heard a lot of great things about but had absolutely no idea what to expect aside from the actors; my guess as to what the tone or genre was would have been way off. This unlikely friendship delivers a lot of laughs because of how strange it is, but also yields many, many uncomfortable moments that were hard to watch at times due to the awkwardness. If you’re into that kind of comedy, then this film is perfect for you, but I couldn’t have as much fun with it because of how often it made me squirm and wince.
First and foremost, this film is a comedy; as mentioned, there are many funny moments between Ingrid and Taylor, but the comedy is not comfortable to watch. Ingrid is very much psychologically twisted most likely due to some repressed childhood trauma, and Taylor hides behind this façade of happiness but almost seems that she could be just as damaged underneath as Ingrid. Actually, the moments that I found most enjoyable in the film were whenever O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s character, Don, was in the film. Don is Ingrid’s landlord when she decides to move out to L.A. to befriend Taylor; he is a stoner and huge Batman film, and the combination brings a lot of laughs during certain scenes. In addition, she asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend, which further adds a lot of comedy into the plot.
All of that being said, I don’t mean to make it seem as though the film was unenjoyable and unfunny when it meant to be; I really laughed a lot throughout the film, especially during the beginning. However, the stalking-comedy ran it’s course for me long before the film was over, and I started to wince more than laugh at what Ingrid was doing. I ran out of pity for her and just started to side against her instead of with her. In the post-film Q and A, the Spicer and Smith discussed aspects of the film, and one audience member asked about how they made Ingrid so sympathetic whilst being insane. The duo seemed grateful for the compliment, and the audience member seemed to genuinely mean it. The reason that I bring this up is to tell you: I may be in the minority of finding aspects of this film too cringe-worthy to enjoy to their full potential. I highly recommend deciding for yourself instead of taking my work for what to enjoy or not enjoy (as always!).
As mentioned a few times, Ingrid is crazy. For me, aspects of this film that might have meant to be comedic became more dramatic because of how seriously damaged Ingrid appears to be psychologically. I’m not trying to patronize, condescend or appear pretentious in any way, but I did pity Ingrid more than I sided with her, and towards the end, I think that it would be impossible to side with her at all. She does things that are not only unreasonable or inexplicable, but unforgivable and downright psychotic. Looking back on the rest of the film with her actions in mind, I’m very much weirded out and I think that watching the film again would have more thriller-aspects than just comedy or drama.
All of that being said, I really do compliment on Spicer’s and Smith’s ability to weird me out as they did. Ingrid’s character is written in such a way that she just crawls under your skin, and Plaza’s performance of her is absolutely perfect. Olsen’s performance as the shallow and fake celebrity is equally impressive as she brings the confidence that her character needs to have whilst maintaining a certain subtle insecurity about her that comes to play later on in the film. O’Shea Jackson Jr., as mentioned, was my favorite element in the film as his character was hilarious and the comedic relief he brought to the plot was always welcome. In addition, Wyatt Russell plays the very much grounded voice-of-reason that sort of reminds us of reality while we’re surrounded by these crazy people. He’s not so perfect himself, but he is the closest thing to normal that we see in the film, aside from Don. Billy Magnussen plays Taylor’s brother, who is wild, ill-mannered, over-the-top, spoiled and seemingly coked-out all of the time and is a good contrast to Ingrid, although they both seem crazy and self-obsessed.
(This paragraph will contain spoilers for the ending, skip this paragraph to avoid them!) The ending was fascinating for a few reasons, but what I liked most about the ending was what it suggested for the rest of the story. We learn towards the end that Taylor’s boyfriend (the Wyatt Russell character) mentions how Taylor used to be just like Ingrid, who travelled out to LA in order to become famous but started out as nobody special. Now, Taylor seems to have delusions about her life, which cannot be written of as delusions of grandeur because she’s actually famous, but she thinks a lot more of herself than she should. At the end of the film, Ingrid tries to kill herself and fails, but her suicide video goes viral and she becomes internet famous because of it. In a way, she becomes Taylor at the end, and since we learn that Taylor used to be like her, we can assume that there is this vicious cycle occurring of people moving out and getting famous simply because of how obsessed they are, and the insinuation that the movie makes (or at the very least, that I assume it makes) is very fascinating.
Overall, there is a lot to enjoy in Ingrid Goes West for those who will like what it has to offer; those who are into the very cringe-inducing comedic style will find this film much funnier than I did, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy aspects of it. The cast was phenomenal, and the writing was just as effective at portraying the characters, but they were quite uncomfortable to watch that I didn’t enjoy it to it’s fullest potential. I’ll definitely watch it again (to give it another try) but I don’t think it’s going to be anytime soon. I’ll have to rate this film a 5+/10 based on my enjoyment, and give it a yellow recommendation! See if you want to, but I wouldn’t make it a priority or anything. But that’s just me! Are you looking forward to this film? Let me know! As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!