‘In­grid Goes West’ looks at so­cial me­dia’s dark side

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY SANDY CO­HEN

Quick, what’s more im­por­tant: so­cial me­dia or real life?

For the ti­tle char­ac­ter in “In­grid Goes West,’’ there is no ques­tion and per­haps no dis­tinc­tion.

Pow­ered by Aubrey Plaza’s sear­ing per­for­mance, di­rec­tor and co-writer Matt Spicer’s fea­ture de­but ex­plores such a dark side of so­cial me­dia obsession, it’s hard to con­sider it satire. It’s a story about young women who find val­i­da­tion in likes and fol­low­ers, who equate so­cial me­dia ex­pe­ri­ences with re­al­life ones.

Like so many mil­len­ni­als, In­grid (Plaza) is an In­sta­gram junkie. Her phone is al­ways in hand, a por­tal to all that is #per­fect and #blessed. Any free mo­ment is spent scrolling through pho­tos. The dou­ble-thumb-tap she uses to “like’’ im­ages is as in­stinc­tive as blink­ing.

But she’s also ob­ses­sive and men­tally un­sta­ble. She once crashed a wed­ding and at­tacked the bride af­ter fix­at­ing on her ex­pertly cu­rated In­sta­gram pro­file.

Flush with cash af­ter her mother dies, In­grid moves to Los An­ge­les to be near her lat­est so­cial me­dia obsession: Blonde, beau­ti­ful Tay­lor Sloane (El­iz­a­beth Olsen), whose life on In­sta­gram looks like a chic Cal­i­for­nia mag­a­zine cap­tioned with lit­er­ary quotes and hash­tags like #week­end­vibes.

In­grid styles her hair like Tay­lor’s. She eats at her favourite break­fast spot. She buys the purse Tay­lor posted about. Then she works out a way to meet the In­sta­gram star so they can be friends.

Olsen is pitch per­fect as sunny, su­per­fi­cial Tay­lor, who says ev­ery­thing is “the best’’ and has no qualms about ask­ing a gas sta­tion at­ten­dant to lay on the ground to snap a per­fect­lyframed so­cial me­dia pic.

The screen­play by Spicer and co-writer David Bran­son Smith looks at how Tay­lor’s ap­petite for ad­mi­ra­tion might al­low for a friend like In­grid — her syco­phan­tic fawn­ing feeds right into Tay­lor’s mil­lion-fol­lower ego.

Plaza dis­ap­pears into the unhinged In­grid, a char­ac­ter ex­cit­ing in her sheer un­like­abil­ity. She lies and steals to get what she wants. She ex­ploits trust and kind­ness. But she brims with a deep hu­man fear of in­ad­e­quacy, one she hopes in­ter­net pop­u­lar­ity might rem­edy. Plaza brings a vul­ner­a­bil­ity and des­per­a­tion to In­grid that makes her re­lat­able. She’s ob­ses­sive and un­sta­ble, but she just wants to be liked, on­line or any­where.

O’Shea Jack­son plays In­grid’s land­lord/neigh­bour/ad­mirer Dan, this story’s ver­sion of the manic pixie dream girl. Though Jack­son gets to show off his sparkling smile more here than in “Straight Outta Comp­ton,’’ his char­ac­ter ex­ists to be In­grid’s saviour and moral foil.

“In­grid Goes West’’ has fun with some so­cial me­dia tropes and Southern Cal­i­for­nia tendencies, but it feels less like a satire than a cau­tion­ary tale, for both the en­vi­ous and the en­vied.

It dips into rich ter­ri­tory by ex­am­in­ing the cov­etous­ness so­cial me­dia in­spires, not just for things, but for at­ten­tion.

AP PHOTO

This im­age re­leased by Neon shows Aubrey Plaza in a scene from “In­grid Goes West.”

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