I admittedly relate quite a bit to the Ingrid of Ingrid Goes West, I’ve selfishly studied people’s news feeds, publicly cried out when I felt left out, and Facebook frequently made me feel left out, particularly throughout high school. So now the common emotion cranks up to eleven when watching the Instagram obsession of Ingrid. These usually mundane, harsh glowing screens within the larger movie screen prove to us how social media has turned us into layered liars, until an @ symbol in front of our specialized name replaces our flesh-and-bone identity.
Ingrid’s story starts after getting out of rehab for stalking and pepper-spraying the bride of a wedding she didn’t get invited to. Now, she spends significant time revising the way she types laughing in a comment while scrolling through her feed, just like what I too have done before. This lonely main character stalks everybody she wants to mimic, and openly hates them for the public to see. Yet we still understand her predicament, since we are immediately told why. She cries uncontrollably when watching the happier lives through her news feed, mainly because she lost her mother to a heart attack at a young age, her urn resting in the living room.
Then when she starts stalking another young woman in Los Angeles, the fun really begins. The stalking starts normal enough, but you soon grow amazed to see the dangerous and often funny risks she takes to steal and lie her way to friendship. Just when you thought she already reached her limit, she proves you dead wrong.
Since everything passes through a filter nowadays, director and co-writer Matt Spicer matches the common Instagram user’s worldview: sunbeams, drinks served in mason jars, hammered copper cups, Joan Didion novels, and modern “art” sold of social media lingo pasted onto paintings. Even the fashion trends here match the creativity millennials contributed to society, setting a strong contrast between the filtered and unfiltered life. At home, she throws on miserable rags, sweats, and towels. When out in public, she attempts to look confident in her lightweight, costly dress. When she finds the ideal Instagram figure she wants to befriend, she copies her look, including dying her hair blonde in a look which clashes against her dark skintone. The usually gorgeous actress, Aubrey Plaza, (Parks and Recreation, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) looks unflattering as Ingrid, dissimilar to the girl she idolizes, who flaunts the most Instagram-y hairstyle and wardrobe.
My greatest praise goes to the casting director, stunt choreographers, pyrotechnicians, and visual effects team for creating an intense, valuable production where communication was clearly strong. Although, stylistically speaking, you could tell this was Spicer’s first attempt at a full-length feature. Early on, he sets up a montage of still images in the style of The Big Short, only never to be seen again. For the most part, the camera and lighting decisions look very plain, sometimes even underexposed, especially with the white walls plastered along the set pieces.
If anything else bothered me, besides the characters’ inconsistent motives, it was the unrealistic “fake out” ending like in Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) that communicated a potentially harmful message.
Looking beyond the flaws, the performances turn out better than they needed to be, Aubrey Plaza’s sorely delightful portrayal compels you as she drowns in a pool of her own mascara-drenched tears. Billy Magnussen (Bridge of Spies, Into the Woods) also gives a very disturbing performance as a drug-addicted brother. Plus, Ingrid’s Los Angeles landlord, a vapor-smoking screenwriter, played by O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), sombers you with his backstory about why he loves Batman so much, then delights you when he and his lover engage in Catwoman-themed sex.
So while the visuals may not capture the Los Angeles culture, the people in it certainly do. They trap you in the city by bringing the lighthearted sunny appearance into thriller territory packed with robberies and cocaine. So Ingrid Goes West does do one thing better than La La Land: Communicating the hard truth about the famous city of stars.
Overall, Ingrid Goes West gave me one important takeaway: tell the truth on social media, for we each need that openness to let others know the real us. Once the real us comes out, then the real friends will soon open up to us.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Ingrid Goes West. Neon Rated. Web. <http://www.ingridgoeswestfilm.com/>.
Kinser, Jeremy. “DAY 7: INSTAGRAM-OBSESSED AUBREY PLAZA TURNS STALKER IN INGRID GOES WEST.” Digital image. Sundance Institute. 26 Jan 2017. Web. <https://www.sundance.org/blogs/instagram-obsessed-aubrey-plaza-turns-stalker-in-ingrid-goes-west>.