We start with a wedding. The bride is beautiful. The groom is handsome. Everything looks so perfect that you’re almost relieved when Aubrey Plaza suddenly shows up.
Seriously, why wouldn’t you be? We all know Aubrey Plaza from her role as the apathetic and sarcastic April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. If anyone’s going to bring this potentially bland wedding to life, it’s going to be Aubrey Plaza!
Aubrey Plaza walks up to the bride and starts screaming at her … wait a minute, that’s not typical Aubrey Plaza behavior … where’s the deadpan snarker that we were all expecting…
Suddenly, Aubrey is pulling out mace and spraying the bride in the face. The bride is writing in pain while Aubrey screams at her…
So begins Ingrid Goes West.
Aubrey Plaza, of course, plays the title character. Ingrid spends some time in a mental hospital after crashing that wedding. She explains to both her doctors and the bride that she was just acting out because she was upset over her mother’s recent death. Ingrid seems to feel that she and the bride were good friends but, as we quickly learn, they actually barely knew each other. The bride just made the mistake of commenting on one of Ingrid’s social media posts, leading to Ingrid deciding that they were actually best friends.
Using the money that she inherited from her mother, Ingrid heads out to Los Angeles. She has a new obsession, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Taylor is a paid social media influencer, famous for being famous. Ingrid left a comment on one of Taylor’s pictures and Taylor left an innocuous reply. It’s the type of thing that happens every day on social media but to Ingrid, it means that she and Taylor are destined to be BFFs.
And, amazingly, it all seems to work at first. Online, Taylor shares just enough about her life to allow Ingrid to come up with a plan to meet her. Ingrid not only gets to know Taylor and her husband, a painter named Ezra (Wyatt Russell), but she is briefly allowed to enter into Taylor’s world. Of course, Ingrid fails to notice that no one in that world seems to be very interested in her. To Ingrid, everything is perfect. Or, at least it is until Taylor’s obnoxious, junkie brother (Billy Magnussen) shows up and starts to call Ingrid out…
Ingrid Goes West really didn’t get as much attention as it deserved when it was released earlier this year. Unfortunately, it was advertised as being some sort of wacky comedy when, in fact, it’s a deeply unsettling and, at times, rather disturbing movie. Yes, there is humor but very little of it is of the “laugh out loud” kind. Instead, it’s the type of humor that makes you pause the movie so you can make sure all of the doors and windows are locked. Ingrid Goes West eventually goes to a very dark place. In some ways, it’s a Taxi Driver for the social media age.
Holding the film together is Aubrey Plaza, giving a performance that is both bracingly vulnerable and frighteningly angry. Plaza makes Ingrid both sympathetic and annoying at the same time. Your heart cries for her but you still wouldn’t necessarily want her to live next door. Ingrid Goes West is not a perfect film. At times, it’s hard to believe that Taylor wouldn’t know better than to invite a complete stranger into her life and some of the scenes with her brother are a bit too over the top. But Aubrey Plaza’s brilliant lead performance makes up for all of those flaws.
Definitely see Ingrid Goes West. Just expect to be paranoid for a week afterward.