Ingrid Goes West (R16, 98 mins) Directed by Matt Spicer ★★★★
In 2017, a good film is as likely to remind me of a TV show as it is another film.
Ten years ago that would have been nearly unthinkable. Then again, 10 years ago the engines that drive Ingrid Goes West were still mostly yet to be invented.
Ingrid is an Instagram addict. She obsessively follows and comments on the feeds of internet celebrities and life-style gurus. She agonises over the exact tonal shift between leaving a “Haha!” or a “Heh!” on a photo of someone else’s avocado on toast.
Unfortunately, Ingrid is also inclined to take her stalking into more frightening territory. She invades the wedding of a woman she barely knows, sprays mace in her eyes for daring to get married without inviting Ingrid, and finds herself spending a spell in hospital.
On release, alone in a house she has inherited and not coping with small town infamy at all, Ingrid quickly finds herself another on-line crush and moves to Los Angeles – Goes West – to pursue her.
That opening stanza reminded me mightily of the terrific Black Mirror episode Nosedive. But by the time Ingrid arrives at Venice Beach, Ingrid Goes West takes on its own grittier and funnier personality.
From Single White Female to Nurse Betty, the stalker movie has always been rich turf. There is potential for horror, comedy and satire here, in a narrative that strips nascent human relationships to their asymmetric bare bones: One person always likes the other just a little more than is reciprocated. The stalker movie lays that open with a hatchet.
As Ingrid, Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) finds a worthy big screen outlet for that weaponised watchfulness that seems to be her default setting. Elizabeth Olsen is similarly perfectly cast as Taylor, the object of Ingrid’s obsession. Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt and Goldie) and O’Shea Jackson Jr (son of Ice Cube, who he portrayed in Straight Outta Compton) are more than fine as Taylor’s man-bunned husband Ezra and Ingrid’s landlord and later boyfriend Dan.
Writer/director Matt Spicer – making his feature debut – pitches Ingrid Goes West at a few levels and hits most of them. The arch name-checking of Norman Mailer’s Deer Park is a slightly-too-clever signifier of the media expose/satire within the film. Meanwhile questions lurk around the script’s edges of whether social media is causing mental illness and chronic loneliness, or just opening a window to a level of human misery that has always been there.
Ingrid Goes West is by turns funny, alarming, disturbing, poignant and – occasionally – a bit too obvious. But it is a necessary and mostly very entertaining film, arriving at exactly the right time.