Ingrid Goes West (2017)
In this film by Matt Spicer the dangers of the social media usage are laid bare when a troubled girl Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) starts to stalk online a successful Los Angeles photographer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). With the inheritance that her mother left her, Ingrid moves to LA to realise her fantasy and be closer to her Instagram idol, and even finds ways to strike up a friendship with Taylor. Being anxious to please, Ingrid soon realises that it will take something more than a friendly talk or a shoulder to cry on to maintain the attention and interest of her idol.
One of the interesting things about this film is the way it presents the modern obsession with social media, and the damage which such obsession can sometimes cause. In the film, Ingrid tries to find her place in the world, but she starts to confuse reality and fantasy through her obsession with the Instagram culture. Modern (online) ways to make friends can turn on its head any traditional approaches of getting to know and maintain connection with people, and social media, in particular, can be misused, e.g. used to stalk and bully. “Friends from nowhere” can appear in one’s social circle overnight, and besides the impact of social media on friendship ties, “Ingrid Goes West” also explores the culture of conformity (only “cool” matters) and celebrity obsession/culture. Following people who are into health trends, exotic holidays and quirky things becomes one of the purposes of life, and new idols emerge, such as people who appear beautiful enough in pictures and who can afford such a lifestyle.
Another great thing about “Ingrid Goes West” is its main character, Ingrid Thorburn, played convincingly by Aubrey Plaza. Having a history of online stalking, she is called “two-faced”, and she will stop at nothing in her obsession to be closer to Taylor. When she moves to LA, Ingrid buys the same clothes as Taylor, immediately visits Taylor’s favourite café (ordering the same food), reads the same books as Taylor, and when she is in Taylor’s house (in the pretext of returning Taylor’s dog), she takes pictures of her home. Pretending to be someone else in cinema is nothing new, but Ingrid (Plaza), with her awkwardness and a maniacal stare, who starts to live beyond her means in LA, is really a spectacle, and it becomes fascinating to guess the train of her compulsive thoughts.
Taylor Sloane (Olsen) herself and Ingrid’s new friend Daniel Pinto (Jackson) are other characters holding attention. When Ingrid first moves to LA, her landlord is Daniel, a guy who writes scripts and is a fan of Batman. Ingrid seems to have more in common with Daniel than with Taylor, but does not choose to acknowledge this. Even the references to Batman are not coincidental since there is a talk of both Daniel and Ingrid losing their parents (as Batman once did), and Batman’s duality mirrors Ingrid’s camouflage as she tries to present herself as someone she is not.
When it seems that Ingrid and Taylor’s friendship strengthens, the whimsiness of Taylor emerges, and Ingrid soon realises that she is being replaced by another girl who becomes close to Taylor, Harley Chung, a fashion blogger. The devastating realisation of that change settles in at about the same time that Taylor’s brother Nicky arrives at Taylor’s house and immediately sees through Ingrid. There is a particular scene where Ingrid is being excluded from a VIP area of one event in LA where Taylor, her husband Ezra, Nicky and Chung all party. At this point, Ingrid’s humiliation is complete. The point of the story here may be that even people we worship may have their own pains, weaknesses and dark secrets they are ashamed to admit to anyone. Behind Taylor’s rosy Instagram photos, there hides the truth that her brother is a drug-addict and her husband is a dissatisfied alcoholic. Even Taylor’s book interests are nothing more than the reflection of the interests of her husband.
Unfortunately, in the end, “Ingrid Goes West” chooses to send a distasteful message that the social media validation is all one needs for happiness, and one way to achieve that is to try to kill oneself (if one is not good enough for anything else). As Al Hoff also says: it remains unclear whether “Ingrid is [supposed to be] a figure of fun, pity, ingenuity, desperation or horror”. However, what is clear is that Ingrid came full circle.
“Ingrid Goes West” tells an engaging story with a strong and fascinating character study at the centre, but the film shocks with unbelievability towards the very end, and then, simply sends a completely wrong message to the audience. 7/10