Belfast Telegraph

Ingrid Goes West: Tragic take on perils of social media

 

By Damon Smith

The soundtrack to modern life is a melancholic symphony of beeps, rings, chirps and pings, synchronised to the drum beat of fingers swiping back and forth across LED screens.

Matt Spicer's dark and disconcerting comedy drama is a delicious cautionary tale about tech-savvy generations whose fragile sense of self-worth is determined by connections on social media.

As Ingrid observes: "If you don't have anyone to share things with, what's the point of living?"

Squirm-inducing social awkwardness takes a selfie with jet-black humour in Spicer's script, which straps us in - ready or not - for a rollercoaster ride through the twisted psyche of one 20-something loner.

Aubrey Plaza delivers a powerhouse performance in the title role, eliciting sympathy and discomfort in equal measure as her cyber-stalker's mental illness spirals sickeningly out of control in the aftermath of her mother's death. Matters come to a violent head at a wedding, and Ingrid Thorburn reluctantly confronts her warped perception of reality in a mental facility.

For years, Ingrid's best friend has been her mobile phone. It's an addiction that prevents her from nurturing healthy relationships with real people rather than avatars.

During her supposed rehabilitation, Ingrid develops an obsession with Californian socialite and It girl Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), who documents every facet of her dreamy, picture-perfect life on Instagram.

Cashing in an inheritance from her mother, Ingrid moves to Los Angeles to be closer to Sloane, rents an apartment from Batman-fixated screenwriter Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr) and stalks her unsuspecting prey from afar.

When an opportunity arises to gatecrash her idol's bohemian chic existence, Ingrid spins a web of lies to impress Sloane and her artist husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell).

The women become awkward friends, but sisterly solidarity is strained by Sloane's fun-loving brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen), who has a nose for nutcases.

Ingrid Goes West employs the idealised filters of the central character's online world to lure us into the quicksand of her aching loneliness. Plaza is blisteringly funny and horribly pathetic.

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Three stars

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