“If you don’t have anyone to share anything with, then what’s the point of living?” – this is the sentiment that permeates the very core of Ingrid Goes West. Matt Spicer’s messy but fun-to-watch debut feature film charts the life of Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) as she navigates the roads of bereavement and mental illness after her release from a psychiatric facility.
The first thing we see Ingrid grab is her phone, as if it is a crucial appendage to her existence, and the vicious cycle of her Instagram addiction is sparked again. She soon chooses her next obsession, the Californian Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen, channelling real-life InstaStars with hilarious accuracy), with her perfect looks and her perfect husband and her perfect everything. High on a backpack full of money from her mother’s will, Ingrid sees her golden opportunity, and her sights are set.
The film’s merit lies in its topical and quick-witted humour. Ingrid finds herself renting a room from Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jr), an aspirational screenwriter with an unmoved affinity for Batman and a dangerous vaping habit. Ingrid is almost undeserving of his kind-hearted nature, but nevertheless he becomes an important ally in helping her find her way back to reality.
Ingrid’s short-lived relationship with Taylor, founded on the abduction of a dog, is spoiled by the arrival of Taylor’s brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen), a drug abusing manipulator who preys on Ingrid’s one weakness: her phone. Unable to find a way out of her lie, Ingrid spirals out and reveals the darker side of her debilitating mental illness, which otherwise remained suppressed for the duration of the film.
Ingrid Goes West is ultimately tinged with tragedy. We sense Ingrid, upon the death of her mother, is desperate to fill an otherwise now empty part of herself. Spicer is appealing to a social media crazed society, but it’s hard to feel as if his indictment has any proper footing.
A sharp and somewhat unfounded turn into an attempted neo-noir genre falls short of the mark; the film feels too cruel to be truly enjoyed. It is as if the film is an Instagram you don’t know whether to post; half in, half out.
Image: Mongrel courtesy of Neon