Cinema is littered with bad films about the internet. Last year we had Friend Request, a dull horror about meeting strangers on Facebook. Then we had The Circle, a poorly masked remake of The Social Network that fell flat. Worst of all was this summer’s The Emoji Movie – a piece of corporate clickbait almost universally hated. Ingrid Goes West, however, is an insightful and funny comedy that totally bucks the trend.
It follows Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), a social media obsessive who moves to LA to try and force her way into the life of glamorous Instagram star Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen). Things go well at first – her lies are bought and they strike up a close friendship. They go on picturesque day trips to the desert, pose for selfies and smoke weed in the car. But as Ingrid’s story grows it becomes unmanageable and cracks begin to show. The film reaches its climax in an emotional finale that reveals her true intentions.
Let’s be clear: Ingrid is mentally ill. She’s deeply possessive, a compulsive liar and her behaviour is erratic. This isn’t the first time she’s targeted someone like Taylor. As a result, there’s a nervy undercurrent to the piece and any humour is tainted. But with a delicate touch and a razor-sharp script, director Matt Spicer’s debut feature provides laughs as well as highlighting Instagram’s sinister underbelly.
It’s not perfect – the accentuated phone clicks grow irritating and every female character is portrayed as crazy or vain. Only Batman-loving boyfriend Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr) appears well-adjusted. Occasionally Spicer fails to make Ingrid’s illness obvious enough, brushing over her more manic moments and passing them off as quirks. But for the most part, Ingrid Goes West succeeds in proving it is entirely possible to make a brilliant movie about social media.