INGRID GOES WEST Millennial blues.

If Wednesday Addams were a millennial, she’d be played by Aubrey Plaza. Just look at Parks and Recreation, where Plaza played the sullen intern April Ludgate, or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, where she played Julie Powers, barista from hell. With starring roles as the villain of Legion and one of the depraved nuns of The Little Hours, 2017 might be the Golden Age of Plaza.

Her reign as Hollywood’s queen of surliness continues with Ingrid Goes West, writer/director Matt Spicer’s debut feature. Plaza plays social media addict Ingrid Thorburn, whose mood fluctuates with each “like.” Following the death of her mother, Ingrid pepper-sprays the bride of a wedding she wasn’t invited to (as one does) and is committed to a mental institution.

Once she’s released, Ingrid cashes out her inheritance and moves across the country to befriend (well, okay, stalk) Los Angeles-based Instagram celebrity Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Taylor’s life looks perfect—her photos show she’s beautiful and stylish, living in a bungalow in Venice with her artist husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell). Taylor and Ezra vacation in Joshua Tree, listen to old records, read Joan Didion novels, guzzle rosé, and frequent a local plant-based restaurant that’s suspiciously similar to LA’s Café Gratitude. It’s a whole new kind of plastic, repackaged and rebranded under the guise of “authenticity.”


Though the film condemns both Taylor and Ingrid’s lies, its depiction of Ingrid’s deteriorating sanity insinuates that mentally ill people—especially those with access to social media—are dangerous, manipulative, and just waiting to catfish you.


The couple’s living their #bestlife—AKA their best trust-funded existence—and Ingrid is obsessed. She rents a house in Taylor’s neighborhood, goes all Single White Female and gets a blonde makeover to look just like her, and choreographs their first meeting by abducting and then “rescuing” Taylor’s beloved terrier. Ingrid and Taylor quickly become BFFs, and Ingrid works overtime to maintain the charade, which proves harder than anticipated—you can’t really “curate” IRL social interactions.

A lot of Ingrid’s behavior is super relatable: She’s trapped in the joyless purgatory where you can’t stop scrolling through pictures of blorange hair and succulent wreaths. We’re not immune to this voyeurism—after all, we’re watching her watch strangers’ manicured lives. And when Ingrid wonders, “What’s the point of life if you don’t have anyone to share it with?” it’s tough to disagree with her logic. She craves human connection, and is convinced this is how she’ll get it.

Though the film condemns both Taylor and Ingrid’s lies, its depiction of Ingrid’s deteriorating sanity insinuates that mentally ill people—especially those with access to social media—are dangerous, manipulative, and just waiting to catfish you. Ingrid Goes West doesn’t give its protagonist much depth beyond “Instagram lunatic,” and this grave mishandling of her mental health is its fatal flaw. Maybe Spicer wanted to highlight Ingrid’s vulnerability—and dig into her decision to turn to social media when she couldn’t deal with real life—but instead of exploring this complexity, Ingrid Goes West goes straight to “crazy stalker.” Which is boring and predictable!

Granted, there are a few things this film does really well: skewering Taylor’s art of online deception as an “influencer” who makes money off sponsored posts. Illustrating how people actually use social media (one scene, in which Ingrid agonizes over whether to comment “hahaha” or “ha ha ha” or “hehehe” on Taylor’s Instagram, is chillingly accurate). And casting Straight Outta Compton’s O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Dan Pinto—a Batman-worshipping screenwriter and Ingrid’s landlord/love interest—was an excellent call, since he’s the film’s most likeable character. But in the end, Ingrid Goes West’s attempt to deliver a topical dark comedy about social media fails to portray mental health with the nuance required when you’re making a movie about an unhinged woman. We’ve already got too many movies that reduce women suffering from mental illness to hysterical nutcases.