DIR: Matt Spicer • WRI: David Branson Smith, Matt Spicer • PRO: Jared Goldman • DOP: Bryce Forner • DES: Susie Mancini • Ed: Jack Price • MUS: Jonathan Sadoff, Nick Thorburn • CAST: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jnr. , Wyatt Russell
There have been surprisingly few films which incorporate the contemporary phenomenon of Social Media and on-line celebrity status as themes. This film addresses that and the widespread malaise of pretence which afflicts those addicted to this cult.
Directed and co-written by Matt Spicer in his debut feature, Ingrid goes West is an original and engaging story about one young woman’s journey towards her dream, i.e becoming ‘besties’ with someone cool who has a very large following on Instagram.
Spicer and his co-writer David Branson Smith have concocted a witty and original story embedded with some disturbing home truths. It will likely guarantee Spicer a shot at directing another feature with perhaps a bigger budget – though perhaps less artistic freedom. He is very well served by his principal and supporting cast.
We learn early on that Ingrid has spent time caring for her now deceased mother – and also spent time in a mental health institution following a wedding day mace attack on the bride. Ingrid would argue the attack was understandable given that the bride (an on–line and off-line ‘friend’ of Ingrid), had neglected to invite Ingrid to her wedding.
Ingrid has what might be regarded as an unhealthy interest in on-line celebrity figures. That is not unusual nor would it regarded by many as unhealthy. Many in this film and in life subscribe to the practice. Celebrity status can derive from the number of followers one has on Instagram. Enter Taylor Sloane, an attractive young woman living on the west coast with a very large following. Ingrid decides to follow Taylor in more ways than one – hence the title of the film.
One might assume from the trailer that Ingrid goes West is a comedy – the blurb describes the film as a ‘comedy drama’. I was a little uncertain of the genre. There are many comic moments. But the film has a dark underbelly. The themes of celebrity culture and on-line presentation of so many lives as idyllic on social media are explored acutely. The development of these themes in this film may be uncomfortably close to a truth most people don’t want to embrace. It is not surprising that this is an ‘indie’ rather than a mainstream film.
I had thought romance would emerge as a means of helping Ingrid ‘find herself’. To its credit, the film does not take that route. Ingrid is gifted with such an opportunity. But Ingrid will only consider such an option if it brings her closer to her primary goal.
We might suspect early in the movie that Ingrid’s rabid pursuit of her goal does not bode well for our heroine. However, the plot developed organically and was never predictable nor formulaic. This is one of the strengths of this film. I was enjoying the set-up and characters from the get-go and not particularly concerned about the plot. The resolution may not be to everybody’s fancy, but I liked it.
Ingrid goes West has a range of quirky, though few likeable, characters. The credibility of the characters was greatly aided by the casting. Aubrey Plaza in the lead role of Ingrid managed to convey a mixture of manic determination and vulnerability. Though Ingrid’s behaviour ranges from misguided to deluded, she manages to evoke more sympathy than one might expect.
Elizabeth Olsen as Taylor Sloane, the object of Ingrid’s attention, is very good in a role more complex than her recent impressive turn in Wind River. One suspects that the career of Olsen and some others in this film may take an upward trajectory going forward.
Among the supporting cast, Billy Magnussen in the role of Nicky Sloane (Taylor’s brother), is excellent as the most dislikeable character I have seen for quite some time.
My favourite character was Dan Pinto, Taylor’s landlord, played by O’Shea Jackson Jnr. (son of Ice -Cube) with remarkable screen presence. Pinto is one of the few characters without a hidden agenda. Though Pinto is no saint, he exudes an integrity which is palpable and refreshing amidst an assorted range of charlatans.
The music and sound track by Jonathan Sadoff and Nick Thorburn was good and was very conducive to the mood and tone of the film.
Matt Spicer has done very well on his first outing.
Brian Ó Tiomáin
15A (See IFCO for details)
Ingrid goes West is released 17th November 2017