Ingrid Goes West
Jacob Richardson | 17/10/2017
Undoubtedly a biting and smart assessment of the carefully curated social media personalities so present in this day and age, Ingrid Goes West succumbs to late stage suicide advocation that derails an otherwise darkly comedic, queasily familiar film.
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) opens the piece crying in her car, sitting outside the wedding of someone she has been stalking on Instagram. She strides through the party, mascara running down her face, and sprays the bride with mace, leading to her temporary incarceration in an asylum. Upon her release, she, seemingly unable to find meaning in life without someone to idolise, starts stalking a boho-chic Instagrammer named Taylor Sloan (Elisabeth Olsen), whose L.A. lifestyle looks so appealing that Ingrid makes her way out there. She rents a house off Batman-obsessive failing screenwriter Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), and proceeds to haunt Taylor’s life by frequenting her favourite cafes, mimicking her purchasing habits, stalking her and, ultimately, stealing her dog. It’s this last act that proves a catalyst for her relationship with the unaware blogger, as Ingrid’s return of the canine leads to a budding friendship between Taylor, her husband Ezra, and Ingrid that seems idyllic until Taylor’s younger brother arrives, threatening to expose Ingrid for what she really is.
Ingrid Goes West is incredibly prescient of the care and effort that goes into curating online media presence, and much of the humour of the piece stems from it’s portrayal of these little quirky moments that turn excruciatingly painful, micro-managed photo-shoots or comments into what seems like a beautiful moment captured online for a group of followers. Watching Ingrid type and re-type a comment to get the perfect medium between “hahahaha” and “heh heh” is funny because we’ve all re-written posts to make them more palatable to the situation. Watching Taylor ask a gas station owner to get down in the dirt to take the perfect Instagram moment of her and Ingrid’s roadtrip makes us laugh because it’s an extrapolation of the times we, ourselves, have gone to extreme lengths to get a photograph that seems, from a third party perspective, to be a perfectly candid moment.
Director Matt Spicer keeps the first three quarters of the film humming along nicely, not only making Ingrid a sympathetic character, but also one just slightly off-kilter enough that we can watch without being insulted. It’s dark, edgy and enjoyable watching Aubrey Plaza dial our own social media habits up to 11, Spicer threads a palpable tension into the film warning us, from the off, that something terrible is going to happen here.
Alas, it’s in the conclusion that the film struggles, as, once she is discovered, Ingrid goes on a downward spiral that culminates in a glorification of suicide that easily outstrips the inappropriateness of recent zeitgeist hit Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s a dangerous end for young viewers, particularly those who have experienced cyber bullying, or the intense and crushing loneliness of cyber ostracisation, and even more abhorrent is the fact that it is entirely unnecessary. Spicer needed to bring this story home in a horrific conclusion that condemned the flourishing importance of social media in everyday life, and instead finds himself not only undermining the key themes of the preceding hour or so, but also further reinforcing the need for changing one’s own course in life to get more followers.
A promising start is undermined by a shonky conclusion, but for the most part Ingrid Goes West is a darkly funny insight into the role of social media in today’s society, and how online persona is a bona fide business.