Ingrid Goes West (2017)

7:54 AM

She'll Follow You. 
This review contains spoilers.
“Ingrid Goes West” is the directorial debut from Matt Spicer who also co-writes the film alongside David Branson Smith. The film stars Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers) and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton). “An unhinged social media stalker moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star”. “Ingrid Goes West” tackles a timely subject - social media and its dangers. Will it be a follow or a block for “Ingrid Goes West”?

“Ingrid Goes West” has been on my radar for a while; Since it entered the festival circuit, reviews have been impressive. The film can play as a comedy, drama or even a thriller/horror depending on the angle and viewpoint it is watched from. This is probably one of 2017’s most timely films that gives a scarily realistic insight into social media; However, it does risk becoming dated quite quickly. Even though it may not reach ‘timeless’ status, “Ingrid Goes West” is certainly a film that will be looked back on as it epitomises a large part of modern culture- social media. Scary and haunting but also funny and sophisticated, “Ingrid Goes West” is one of my favourite films of the year; It would be a mistake to miss this one. 

At the helm of “Ingrid Goes West’ are two brilliant performances from Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen; Weirdly, both characters are arguably quite unlikeable and as the film evolves, it becomes harder for the audience to empathise with either of them; This is not a criticism though as both characters have depth and are well written- They feel like actual people (people I would not be friends with). Olsen shows range, this is a second great performance she has delivered in 2017 (see “Wind River”). Both roles are completely different but she pulls both off eloquently. Olsen’s performance could have easily been very over the top and exaggerated but there is a nuance to her act; She still exudes airhead fame but feels slightly humble. Aubrey Plaza also impresses; This is the first time I have seen Plaza demonstrate true talent when it comes to acting. Previously Plaza has starred in films like “Dirty Grandpa” and “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” as the sex object or comedic relief but in “Ingrid Goes West”, Plaza proves she has pretty good acting chops. Plaza still gets to utilise her comedic side with some funny moments but she tackles the serious moments brilliantly. Throughout this review, I argue that the film uses satire and I think it is definitely used within the casting and performances. Firstly, casting somebody like Aubrey Plaza- known for comedy- in a dramatic role suggests that the serious tone of the film is a facade and underneath lies a rather ironic and humourous commentary on social media. Secondly, the dialogue and the way it is delivered could be interpreted as mocking social norms and trends; For example, Olsen’s Taylor uses the term “#blessed”- a phrase that is now mimicked by society. However, Olsen says the line in a serious way yet there is a subtle nuance of sarcasm/mockery in her tone. There is definitely more to “Ingrid Goes West” than meets the eye. The film is self-aware of the ridiculousness of its subject matter and the extreme scenarios it can cause; At the same time, “Ingrid Goes West” could act as wake-up call for audience members by exhibiting what social media addiction can lead to. 

The film begins by developing Ingrid; She has falsely assumed in the past that somebody (Charlotte) was her friend simply because they communicated on Instagram; Ingrid crashes Charlotte’s wedding, gets a restraining order and ultimately is checked into a mental health hospital. The treatment is not effective and Ingrid quickly relapses; She is evidently addicted to her phone and as soon as she spots Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen) in a magazine and communicates with her on Instagram, she believes they are friends- Ingrid has not learnt. Watching Ingrid copy Taylor’s actions is unsettling, it is haunting to think that people like Ingrid exist in the real world. Taylor befriends Ingrid because Ingrid returns her lost dog (but little to Taylor’s knowledge, it was Ingrid who stole the dog). Despite her behaviours seeming outrageous, invasive and creepy, all of Ingrid’s actions are well calculated- everything she does is believable. Taylor and Ingrid enjoy a fun-filled but very brief close friendship until a model with over a million followers enters and Taylor ditches Ingrid; This is when Taylor exposes her unlikeable side. Understandably, having a friend as invasive and obsessed as Ingrid would unsettle anybody but there are better ways to handle the situation than Taylor does; Taylor picks up and drops people as she pleases and ultimately leads a fake life. Taylor posts a picture of a location, Ingrid drives there and tries to get in contact but finds out that the picture was taken weeks ago and Taylor was not there. This is strikingly accurate to real life; People post pictures to give the impression they are somewhere having a great time when in reality, they are not doing anything interesting at all. For audience members, the character of Taylor is going to be the most relatable; Everybody knows someone like Taylor and some audience members may ‘be’ Taylor themselves. 

The film comes to a tragic climax; Ingrid attempts to commit suicide. It is shocking that social media, a virtual entity that technically is not real, leads someone to feeling worthless, lonely and hated. This scene will likely make audience members angry and uneasy as suicide is not the solution but it works within the story; it ends up being Ingrid’s solution for validation and feeling wanted; Ingrid wakes up in a hospital room full of balloons because her suicide video went viral online. This resolution almost confirms the satirical and sarcastic tone of the film as the audience are fully aware that this should not be the answer but it is for Ingrid. This one scene epitomises the message the entire film expresses - social media has taught the world to crave fame, validation and popularity. Another message I got is that there is more to life than social media; The film almost gives the full insight behind the Instagram pictures: The audience get to see the picture but also what actually happened and was experienced. One of the subplots in the film is that Taylor’s boyfriend, Ezra (Wyatt Russell), is an artist who puts popular social terms (e.g. ‘Squad Goals’ on a painting of running horses) on top of pre-existing paintings (more satire!). However, it is revealed that Taylor is the one who made him follow this path and he wishes he could do something else. Even though Ezra’s arc isn’t fulfilled on screen because Ingrid and Taylor stop talking, the message is still there that you should follow the path that you want to which will make you happy. 

Coming from two men who do not have any experience making a feature film, this is a tremendous debut for Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith. “Ingrid Goes West” is a topical film that comments on current issues in society; Spicer and Smith’s terrific end result is sure to make them in demand for future projects based on contemporary topics. It was a genius idea to take this entertaining story but make it so much more clever and relevant. I’m really excited to see if Spicer and/or Smith (hopefully they will collaborate again in the future) will tackle another current issue on their next project; They definitely could have found their niche as they excel in it. “Ingrid Goes West” doesn’t just impress in the directing, writing and acting areas, there is some good cinematography and I enjoyed how the film was edited. 

“Ingrid Goes West” is a film that will speak to today’s generation. The topic at the centre of the film’s narrative is incredibly current and relevant in today’s society. The only flaw with the film is its relevance- will the same issues still be issues in 10 years time? “Ingrid Goes West” risks dating quite quickly but for now, it’s extremely timely. The film could be interpreted as pop culture satire as ridden within the entire piece are mockeries of social media- whether that be validation from online fans being Ingrid’s happy ending or the fact that somebody can post a fake life. The film has two excellent performances at its core from Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen; Both actresses demonstrate range as neither have been challenged with roles like this. It’s a comedy with some dark humour but it is also a scary insight into society as it is worryingly accurate. “Ingrid Goes West” is thought-provoking, unsettling and smart. A film you should see as soon as possible, while it is still relevant. 


What did you think of INGRID GOES WEST? What subject should Spicer and Smith tackle next? - COMMENT BELOW

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