When was the last time you scrolled through someone else's social media feed, ogled their happy snaps, envied their existence and felt bad about your own life choices? However honestly you choose to answer that question, we know you know the feeling. You've been there and done that, and probably more than once. What we'll assume you haven't done is move across the country to stalk your Insta girl crush, and then changed your entire identity in order to become their BFF.
In a nutshell, that's the story of Ingrid Goes West, a caustic yet relatable comedy that blends a portrait of today's #nofilter world with some Black Mirror-style social satire. It's a film that's all-too-aware that measuring self-worth through likes, follows and shares has become the norm, and is well and truly committed to probing and satirising that fact. If, like most of us, you live large parts of your life online, then you're likely to find this darkly comic tale insightful, amusing and unnerving — not to mention a little close to home.
When we first meet Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza), she's trawling through a woman's wedding posts while driving to the reception. She wasn't invited, she's furious and the fact that she's only really an Instagram acquaintance of the bride doesn't matter to her one bit. A meltdown, a short stint in a psychiatric hospital and a modest inheritance later, and Ingrid finds herself alone, cashed up and looking for a new pal. Enter LA influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), who Ingrid spies in a magazine and reaches out to online, eventually abducting her dog in order to spark a connection.
Remaking herself in her new bestie's image, Ingrid's efforts initially pay off. Soon she's having dinner with Taylor and her artist husband Ezra (Wyatt Russell), going to parties with the duo, enjoying girls-only road trips to Joshua Tree and filling her own social media feed with proof of her glamorous new life. But then Taylor's snarky, smarmy brother (Billy Magnussen) shows up, and quickly sees through Ingrid's Single White Female-esque obsession.
In their first feature film, writer-director Matt Spicer and co-scribe David Branson Smithfind plenty of material to work with, both in Ingrid's delusional deception and her inevitable unravelling. In the process, they contemplate and skewer a culture that enables her behaviour with the tap of a screen, and then judges, denigrates and condemns with the press of a few more buttons. It might all seem quite obvious to anyone with a smartphone, but that doesn't make it any less humorous, perceptive or effective.
Spicer also deserves credit for finding the right stars for the job, particularly his leading lady. With her expressive eyes working overtime, Plaza flits between sincere, ironic, vulnerable and vapid in an instant, all while making viewers understand Ingrid when they might otherwise just feel derision or pity. Olsen, meanwhile, nails her role as a bohemian social media star, so much so that you'll think you're actually following her on Instagram yourself. Of course, that's the point: the most astute and accurate parodies are often only a step or two away from the real thing.