Filmmakers have already tackled the birth of social media, in films like The Social Network, but its corrosive influence is only beginning to be explored. Men, Women & Children and Disconnect were both disappointing, but there is great promise in Ingrid Goes West, a smartly and sharply-tooled comedy co-written and directed by debut filmmaker Matt Spicer. Here, the picture-sharing site Instagram – and those that use it – comes under the microscope.
When we first meet Ingrid (Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza), she’s seen marching into the wedding she’s not been invited to. We soon learn she stalked the bride on Instagram. But after a spell in hospital, where we learn her mother has died, she emerges with renewed vigor, finding a new focus when she reads an article about Los Angeles-based Instagram “influencer” Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).
Deciding to take her $60,000 inheritance, she heads out to LA to engineer a meeting with the mildly insufferable Taylor, whose reply to one of Ingrid’s comments on Instagram sets in motion a worrying chain of events (echoed by the soundtrack’s use of Obsession by Animotion). After stealing her dog and returning it, Ingrid is soon Taylor’s new best friend, basking in the reflected glory of this too-cool girl’s thousands of followers.
Whilst she delights in this new group of phony Insta-friends – including Taylor’s artist boyfriend Ezra (Wyatt Russell) – the only genuine connection comes with her neighbour, Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr), an aspiring screenwriter with a Batman obsession, although it takes Ingrid a long time to see it. The script neatly shows just how willing we are to mould ourselves to fit into social groups, and the lengths we go to for validation.
As a takedown of social media, its both humorous and dark – with Ingrid’s extreme behaviour a stark warning that “likes” and “followers” do not equate to real meaningful human contact. Brightly directed, Spicer captures the easy-going West Coast vibe very acutely. The satirical stabs at LA clean-living (“How can I nourish you today?” says one waiter to Ingrid) are also a discreet side-pleasure of this very sly indie.
Ingrid Goes West opens in cinemas on 17 November. For more information, visit: www.ingridgoeswestmovie.co.uk