Looking through the many options on Netflix, I stumbled across this 2017 indie that I have been meaning to watch but never got around to. Matt Spicer’s film stars Aubrey Plaza as the titular Ingrid Thorburn, an Instagram stalker who becomes besotted with an LA based influencer, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), and moves to be near her. Ingrid Goes West lifts the filter and reveals the dark side to Instagram, showing the damaging psychological affects that obsessive social media usage can have. Ingrid is already introduced in her obsessive state and we never quite get to the bottom of her issue but that adds to the eeriness that social media dominates lives without reason. Despite being sent to a mental health facility, Ingrid doesn’t change her ways and still flicks through magazines religiously. The opening shot of Ingrid is her crying as she flicks through her former victim’s Instagram as she is barred from the wedding. The irony of the deep emotion that Ingrid feels with the vacuous status that accompany the pictures only serves to highlight how shallow the obsession is. Ingrid is constantly viewed as an outsider but it is purely because she doesn’t naturally conform to the Instagram type that makes her seem a bit weird.
Given the topic for the film, it only makes sense that Spicer would reflect this in his direction. The film runs like a glossy Instagram page filled with a satisfying colour palette and scenery that would need no filter. It was always going to be a challenge because these are characters who are obsessed with their phones. Spicer wants the audience to see what these characters are missing. The beauty of the location is used by the characters for likes and not really appreciated for what it is. Combine this with sharp dialogue that is filled with plenty of small talk and awkwardness and you’re onto a winner. Spicer cowrote the script with David Branson Smith and I think they did a great job of subtly bringing out the darkness in the other characters. When Ingrid has her meltdown at the end and confronts Taylor, the latter seems emotionless to the accusations of her shallowness which only confirms Ingrid’s claims. Ingrid is an obvious victim of social media obsession but Taylor is also a victim of illusion provided by the grandeur of thousands of followers on Instagram. The soundtrack is a Californian daydream mixing Indie songs with RnB classics, Ingrid Goes West is bolstered by it’s music choices. To an extent, the songs are perfectly picked for their scenes like photoshopping the perfect image. Spicer does not want the audience to forget that this is a film about culture and arguably, the downfall of culture.
Aubrey Plaza is nothing less than stunning in this film. A complete 180 from her usual quirky and sarcastic persona, her performance as Ingrid is ironically her most sincere character. Ingrid is deeply flawed and not necessarily likeable from the offset but she is a victim. We can see that Ingrid is filled with disgust for herself as she finds herself diving deeper into obsession but despite her own attempts, she cannot stop this. On the other hand, whether she wants to stop obsessing is another question but then this conflict is what makes her struggle human. The film is primarily a dark comedy and this makes it a perfect fit for Plaza but she plays the role as though it were a drama and this pays off massively. We feel sorry for Ingrid despite her weirdness and crimes. We know what she is doing is wrong and yet we want her to succeed. A character as conflicting as Ingrid doesn’t happen very often and the combination of Spicer’s script with Plaza’s characterisation was perfect.
Ingrid is clearly the film’s villain with Taylor as the traditional victim. But what the film is also suggesting is whether Taylor herself has allowed herself to become equally as obsessed in a different way. She doesn’t care to notice Ingrid’s obsession until there is danger posed and she doesn’t seem trendy anymore. She is consistently narcissistic which Ingrid completely ignores in her admiration. Taylor had also wanted to be the cool kid that Ingrid longs to be but she rejects Ingrid’s attempts in the end. The film doesn’t aim to excuse Ingrid’s behaviour but it aims to shed light on how shallow both sides of the obsession is. Just as Ingrid is tortured and craving a life that cannot be hers, Olsen revels in her role as the self-absorbed Taylor Sloane. Originally coming across intelligent and cultured with a ton of quotes from many favoured writers such as Joan Didion as well as a regular face on the LA art scene, Taylor has everything that Ingrid could want. Taylor is oblivious the world around and everything is material. Even a simple picture with Ingrid turns into a.impromptu photoshoot with a local shop worker forced to get on the floor to get the perfect angle. Taylor is all about control and image and doesn’t want anything negative coming in and bursting the bubble. We are led to believe that Taylor lives a perfect life but this couldn’t be further from the truth as her husband is a failed artist alcoholic and her brother a drug addict.
O’Shea Jackson Jr also makes a welcome appearance as Ingrid’s landlord, Dan, who Ingrid manipulates into a relationship to impress Taylor. Dan is the only honest and traditionally good character in the film. He is aware that Ingrid is deeply flawed from the moment that she brings a dog to her apartment against his rules but he still develops a deep love for her. When she attempts suicide, no one in the house next door tries to help her. In fact it is Dan, who is in hospital because of her, who saves her life by calling an ambulance. Taylor and her husband Ezra were willing to leave Ingrid for dead in her own home. Their shallowness and obsession with online presence overshadowed someone’s real life. It’s the small details in the writing such as this that exploit the darkness in this film.
What do you think of Ingrid Goes West? Let me know in the comments below!