Imagine a pressure cooker of psychological disorders and social media, and you have the plot of "Ingrid Goes West," which takes a cringe-worthy and disturbing look at today's world through the eyes of a misguided and floundering young woman.
Aubrey Plaza ("Parks and Recreation") plays Ingrid, who, after exploding at a friends wedding, lands in a psychiatric ward. Upon her release, she can't handle the stares, jeers and judgmental comments from acquaintances. She flees to L.A. to follow Instagram sensation Taylor Sloane (played by Elizabeth Olsen).
Written by Matt Spicer, the film creates a controversial message regarding mental illness and society's unintentional reinforcement of unwanted behavior. It's a dark comedy, but the darkness might be too much.
Ingrid's obsessive behaviors turn into stalking, until she is invited into Taylor's inner circle. But one lie after another creates a more tangled web of deceit.
Spicer has undeniable skills in developing intensely awkward situations. And while familiar, the characters certainly are not one-dimensional.
In fact, it is Plaza's subtlety that gives the audience sympathy for such a bizarre persona. The sadness and inability to change is evident behind her eyes.
And the awkward yet sweet relationship between Ingrid and Dan Pinto (played by O'Shea Jackson Jr.), her landlord and naive drug-dealing friend, is foreboding of what will come ... and it does.
Olsen is simply remarkable in her performance: captivatingly and confidently portraying the adorable (and lucky) Taylor, who is successful thanks to social media posts. Sound familiar? Olsen and Plaza balance each other like yin and yang, but it is Taylor's innocence that is endearing.
The female camaraderie amid a dark cloud of social pressures and mental illness gives this film an entirely unexpected and oftentimes uncomfortable look into young adulthood.
Ingrid takes advantage of anyone around her to attain her ultimate goal: to be a part of the popular group. The main character in this film isn't Ingrid. It's social media and the pressure it places on young people today: bullying and superficiality brewing a poisonous drink so many overindulge in.
But the real downfall of the film comes in the way it treats that main character.
The acknowledgment of depression, obsessive behavior and mental instability is wonderfully incorporated into this story — but it also glamorizes an attempted suicide, a huge red flag. Suicide is not glamorous. It should not be reinforced. And in no way should social media be the outlet for it.
While there is humor in this film, there also is heartbreak with a final message that cannot be condoned. Spicer pushed the envelope on this one, and perhaps he pushed it just a bit too far.
2 out of 4 stars