It’s a balmy Thursday night in LA, and tucked away in a back alley of Hollywood Blvd. is Avenue, a club pulsating with pink neon and pop hits. It’s a scene every tourist expects to stumble into. Here, the Ingrid Goes West premiere party is in full effect, and dancing in the VIP are the trendiest celebrities you could think of, with the trendiest cast you could assemble.
It’s the kind of Instagram story that’d have your phone blowing up with old acquaintances out of the woodwork.
Basically, it’s a scene of out Ingrid Thorburn’s wet dream.
The woke directorial debut of Matt Spicer, Ingrid Goes West tells the story of an obsessive and lonely fangirl, Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), who takes her insta-stalking from URL to IRL. She hits the open road to befriend (or, rather, entrap in friendship) celebrity influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) in the number one city in the world where stalking (re: paparazzi) is standard: Los Angeles.
La-la land makes the perfect setting for a film that essentially operates on the idea that personal brand is currency. Transactional relationships are front and center here, with characters making decisions based on which influencer will be at which party—and how that would boost their social and professional bottom line.
[Los Angeles] makes the perfect setting for a film that essentially operates on the idea that personal brand is currency.
“Personal brand in LA is really overwhelming. It’s a lot of pressure,” said Aubrey Plaza. “As an actor, it’s not anything I ever signed up for, but I realize that that’s the world we’re living in.”
After all, Los Angeles is a city that inherently creates an expectation of fame, whether that’s being in proximity to it or being it.
“We live in a bubble when we’re in LA. People live in a dream of being famous and being in the movies,” said Pom Klementeiff. In the film, she plays Harley Chung, a jaded influencer whom Taylor strategically befriends, emphasizing an idea that here, you’re only as good as what you can do for people. “Everyone’s obsessed with being something.”
Building on that thought, Billy Magnussen, who steals every scene as Taylor’s entitled cokehead brother Nicky, added: “You think this is what the world wants of you because of what you’ve seen in the movies. You create a fake reality of who you are.”
While creating versions of yourself isn’t exclusive to Los Angeles, the intrinisic celebrity culture that marks the city seems to exacerbate the idea. “There’s that gold rush mentality here because this is where things are supposed to happen for people,” said Spicer.
When depicting Los Angeles this way, Spicer tapped into his own experience.
“I wanted to present that wide-eyed feeling of first coming here and how beautiful everything looks on the outside,” said the Pennsylvania native. “And show the darker side of it as well, where there’s all these seductive exteriors, but sometimes you peel away the surface and realize it’s rotten underneath.”
“Who are you truly as an individual in a sea of people falsifying their individuality?”
Yet as much as Ingrid Goes West is a full-length mirror held up to the city, it’s also a compassionate look at a place that just needs a little reminder once in awhile to get a hold of itself.
Even when parodying hipster hot spots like Café Gratitude and Tenants of the Trees, Spicer makes sure to capture LA’s most beautiful angles, creating a mood board that feels like one a young Ingrid, looking for hope out of her small town life, would glue together. While it’s carefully curated, you realize that in its purest form, each image is motivated by a sincere, individual desire.
“What’s cool about Los Angeles is you do have a slew of all different types of people from all over the world really just trying to make it,” said Magnussen.
Like Ingrid, people come here because they know this town has the resources at their fingertips to help them create the life they want.
“At the end of the day, there’s a romantic, aspirational part of LA. [The movie] is just a reminder to check in with yourself and what you care about,” said Lizzie Olsen. “Who are you truly as an individual in a sea of people falsifying their individuality? Why are you here?”
Ingrid Goes West is in theaters now.
Earlier this year, we included Matt Spicer in our list, “11 Indie Directors Poised to Be the Next Big Thing.“