Ingrid Goes West

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Ingrid Goes West Movie Poster Image
Social media thriller has worthy messages, drugs, language.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

As a cautionary tale about a social media preoccupation taken to hideous lengths, this movie has compelling messages for teens and 20-somethings. Parents who watch with kids may want to make points about identity, friendship, the importance (or not!) of an online persona, and other related topics.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ingrid is unhinged, Taylor is shallow, and Nicky is actively evil -- so Dan emerges as the only role model of the bunch. He's a kind, thoughtful, and supportive friend, but at one point in this movie he does something terribly misguided (and criminal).

Violence

Most of the drama in this movie is emotional, but there are some moments of startling violence -- like when a woman pepper-sprays another in the face or a man is kidnapped and threatened with a gun, then bludgeoned with a tire iron. Viewers don't see blood, and the man survives, but the perpetrators aren't arrested. A character (unsuccessfully) tries to commit suicide by swallowing pills. 

Sex

Rude joke about a "hand job." Extended sex scene in which a woman writhes in her underwear and a mask, pretending to be Catwoman for a Batman fan. They kiss and grind together in bed; no nudity, but she says "f--k me" repeatedly. 

Language

Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "a--hole," and "goddamn." Three men are called "p-----s" (implying they're weak).

Consumerism

Characters with large social media followings often recommend home decor and other items to each other -- lamps, rugs, etc. This focus on things you can buy is subverted when Ezra points out that Taylor's constant social media comments on her purchases ("It's the best!") are phony. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters snort cocaine in an extended sequence and then dance wildly around a club; in a later scene, a threatening man also snorts cocaine. Others take prescribed psychiatric medications and drink wine at dinners and parties. A character uses her mother's prescription pills to attempt suicide. Many characters smoke cigarettes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ingrid Goes West is a dramedy that revolves around an unstable woman (Aubrey Plaza) who stalks other women she "meets" on social media. The movie offers timely messages about social media, including "friending"/"following" someone vs. being or having a real friend, the reality of online personas, and other topics that will resonate with viewers in their teens and 20s. But there's also plenty of iffy stuff. In an extended superhero role-playing sexual scene, a woman begs a man to "f--k" her over and over, and several scenes show characters snorting cocaine and smoking cigarettes. There are also moments of sudden and startling violence and upsetting content, including a kidnapping in which a man is threatened with a gun and bludgeoned with a tire iron, a wedding party gone awry when the bride is pepper-sprayed in the face, and a suicide attempt (with pills). Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," and more. All of that said, if your kids are teens/young adults who can handle the mature content, this is worthy watch-together fare, with many potential conversation starters. 

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What's the story?

Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) doesn't have a lot going on in her life, so she prefers to look in on the lives of others, feverishly consuming social media every hour she's awake. But when things go sour with a social media "friend," Ingrid's old life is shattered, and she needs a new focus. She finds it in Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), an appealing social media lifestyle celeb with lots of followers. Hoping to get closer to Taylor, INGRID GOES WEST to make her new home in Southern California, settling into an apartment owned by Dan (O'Shea Jackson Jr.). Taylor wasn't expecting Ingrid. She wasn't expecting anything at all. But when Ingrid sets her sights on something, Taylor -- and everyone else she knows -- quickly learn that it's not so easy to refuse her. 

Is it any good?

By turns nail-biting and bitterly funny, this cautionary tale about a social media stalker and her prey will ring true to digital natives who fall asleep holding their phones. In fact, Ingrid Goes West's early scenes of a blank-faced Ingrid scrolling and liking, scrolling and liking, while she simultaneously brushes her teeth, uses the toilet, and, yes, falls asleep, may make some viewers a little uncomfortable. And while most people likely won't make Ingrid's mistake of assuming that a friendly comment on one of her photos means she's actually made a new friend, social media addicts (and who among us isn't at least a little addicted?) will recognize her all-consuming hunger for recognition and validation. 

Ingrid is lonely. Ingrid is desperate. But you wouldn't know it from her social media feed, which transmits only shiny, staged photos of the perfect cauliflower samosa, or a "that'll impress 'em!" book propped ever so casually on a table. Still, Ingrid presumes that Taylor, glimpsed only through her own Coachella-chic posts, must have somehow found the secret to living blissfully. What separates this movie from other darkly comic stalker thrillers is that the audience is allowed to see that not only is Ingrid unbalanced, but Taylor is a great big phony, propping up a problematic life by performing for her followers. Ingrid's quest for connection is futile, true, but Taylor's curated persona is empty, her stardom and self-worth illusive. The final, satisfying irony? Ingrid never sees the light. The movie ends as it begins: scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Always looking for the next thing to "like." Because it just has to be better than what's going on in real life right now. 

Talk to your kids about ...

Movie details

For kids who love social media

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