Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer, 2017)


Aubrey Plaza graces Seattle Screens for the second time this summer, following the extended run of the raucous Boccaccio farce The Little Hours at SIFF (and now expanded around town), with the defining stalker movie of the Web 2.0 age. Plaza’s Ingrid is introduced in a psychotic rage, trashing the wedding of an apparent friend, though we soon learn that she didn’t know the person at all: Ingrid just followed her on Instagram. After a sojourn in therapy, and a bit of backstory where it’s revealed that Ingrid has been caring for her sick mother who has since died and left her a tidy sum of cash, Ingrid develops a new Instagram obsession, an ultra-trendy blonde named Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen) and moves to Los Angeles to track her down. Using her internet sleuthing skills, she manufactures random encounters with Taylor and eventually insinuates herself into her life, meeting her husband, her brother and for all appearances becoming her friend. Meanwhile, she strikes up a friendship and romantic relationship with her landlord (O’Shea Jackson, Jr), almost by accident. As Taylor loses interest in Ingrid (dazzled by brighter stars on her own social climbing quest) and Taylor’s brother (the menacingly beefy Billy Magnussen) begins to suspect Ingrid’s lunacy, Plaza’s performance shifts from comically manic to seriously unhinged, Ingrid’s desperate need for acceptance among the beautiful people blinding her to the wonders of her Batman-loving boyfriend (Jackson’s easy-going performance matches in grounded realness Plaza and Magnussen’s hyperactive villainy). I suppose every new stage in communication technology spawns a new variation on the stalker narrative, and it’s tempting to reduce Ingrid Goes West to a statement about The Way Things Are Now, but I don’t know that it has anything more to say about social media than To Die For did about local news celebrity or Play Misty for Me did about talk radio or Single White Female did about Manhattan real estate. The medium changes, but the essential truths of human loneliness and the pathologies we develop in the attempt to cure it, remain the same. More tantalizingly, the film offers itself up in the end as a Taxi Driver for our marginally less violent, but much more ephemeral age.