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Socially unstable media

Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid, a mentally-unstable Instagram junkie in Matt Spicer’s film “Ingrid Goes West.”

Aubrey Plaza plays Ingrid, a mentally-unstable Instagram junkie in Matt Spicer’s film “Ingrid Goes West.”

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 real-life ones.

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 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 works out a way to meet the Instagram star so they can be friends.

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 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. O’Shea Jackson plays Ingrid’s landlord/admirer, Dan. Jackson’s character exists to be Ingrid’s savior and moral foil.

Taylor and Ingrid may approach Instagram from opposite sides, but both live in a world where “likes” have tremendous value.

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