“Ingrid Goes West” a haunting yet comedic look at social media and mental illness

Alex Davidson

Staff Writer

“Ingrid Goes West,” currently in theatres, is a dark-humored look at social media and mental illness, with a cast of characters played by Aubrey Plaza; Elizabeth Olsen; O’Shea Jackson, Jr.; and others, and will interest those looking for an interesting satire on the modern age.

Plaza is generally known for playing the same type of character in all of her movies: the snarky, deadpan girl who is best friends with one of the central characters, but never one of them herself. She carved out this niche in “Parks and Recreation,” in which she portrayed the character April Ludgate to acclaim.

Going into “Ingrid Goes West,” one might expect this same sort of laugh-out-loud, popcorn comedy in which nothing meaningful really happens. However, within the first few minutes of the film, it becomes immensely clear that this is something much darker, much more raw and thought-provoking than the usual comedic fodder.

It’s hard to talk about this movie without giving too much away, as cliché as that may sound, since there is a lot about this movie that is unexpected, but every moment of it is welcome.

There are a few flaws, but for the most part, it is a solid exploration of mental illness and obsession in the age of social media, all wrapped up in a darkly comedic package.

The major crux of the film is the relationship between two women, Ingrid, played by Plaza, and social media star Taylor, played by Olsen.

Taylor’s Instagram is so huge that she is able to make a living from sponsorships. Ingrid, an avid follower and mentally ill young woman, is taken with this person who seems so perfect and goes on a quest to turn them into best friends.

Plaza’s portrayal of the obsessed Ingrid is haunting and moving. She really sells the idea she is so obsessed with this “Instamodel’s” work that she would drop everything and move to California to become friends with her.

Most of the emotional scenes in the movie revolve around her inability to cope with what’s going on around her and Plaza makes those scenes seem much more legitimate than some actors would have been able to.

Olsen as Taylor is just as fantastic, with every one of her scenes showing that there is more to her than her social media empire.

The real standout performance, however, came from Jackson, who played Dan Pinto, Ingrid’s landlord. Even from his first scene, he managed to blend comedy and empathetic concern for Ingrid in a way that really could have gone very wrong and been jarring for the viewer. Instead, he managed to play a character that had more layers than “Shrek” while also being the funniest character in the movie by far.

While Dan Pinto may have had a few jokes that caused chuckles in the audience, the movie really didn’t have that much laugh-out-loud comedy. Most of it came from the contrast of the dark subject matter and the bright and happy California setting and peppy soundtrack that plays throughout, fitting together to bring out the best in a strong cast and well-written screenplay.

That’s not to say the film didn’t have any issues, however. Around the middle, there are a few abnormal pacing issues that could throw people off. It seemed as if it had been filmed to be about 10 or 15 minutes longer, but because the studio wanted it to be shorter several scenes had to be cut from the same spot.

The pacing doesn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but it is relatively noticeable.

Regardless, “Ingrid Goes West” is a good exploration of mental illness in the age of social media, while also managing to be a surprisingly funny dark comedy. The acting and directing all came together in such a way as to make a movie that is not only timely, but also necessary in an age marked by those amongst the new generations clamoring to become social media stars.