“Ingrid Goes West” is an ideal vehicle for Aubrey Plaza, a comic actress whose manner suggests one thing but whose eyes tell us something else.
At the start of the film, Ingrid (Plaza) is boiling with rage, as she sits in a car and looks at a friend’s Instagram entries. We soon realize that she is parked outside the wedding of that friend. Ingrid gets out, marches up to the bride and sprays her with mace.
Ingrid is an internet stalker. She develops obsessions for people she sees online and tries to insinuate herself into their world. After a stint in a mental institution, she discovers a new woman-crush while thumbing through a magazine — Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), whose career consists of getting free products and services and then boosting them online. This is hardly a glamour job — it’s barely a job at all — but Taylor has 300,000 Instagram followers, so Ingrid idolizes her.
Ingrid becomes so obsessed that she takes a modest inheritance from her mother and moves to Los Angeles, where Taylor lives. How Ingrid contrives to meet and befriend Taylor becomes the story.
To director Matt Spicer’s credit, the characters are individual enough to provoke a complex response. Taylor is confident and enviable, and she is as much a poseur as Ingrid. Ingrid is an internet creep, but we see the movie through her eyes and recognize the purity of her need for acceptance.
Plaza is fascinating, a bottomless well of insecurity that approaches even the most casual social encounter as though there were a trapdoor under her feet, ready to drop. And Spicer takes “Ingrid Goes West” to unexpected places that, in the end, not only feel right, but true. Uncomfortably true.
For these reasons, though I can’t make the case that “Ingrid Goes West” is a great movie, it’s a film that I loved, a highlight of my movie year.
‘Ingrid Goes West’
Rated R for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content and disturbing behavior. 1:37. Hamburg.