'Ingrid Goes West'...And South Fast
By Livia Peterson
Social media is addicting. We scroll, like, scroll, like, rinse, and repeat on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (to name a few). Jealousy sometimes (or often) happens as we see our family and friends on fun excursions and wishing we had the same things. One usually contains envy enough to not insult family and friends, but rather comment to please them. So Matt Spicer’s timely “Ingrid Goes West” flawlessly taps into the zeitgeist and examines the consequences of social media as a whole.
Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is obsessed with stalking Instagram user Charlotte (Meredith Hagner). She intrudes on Charlotte’s wedding day, squirts pepper spray in her face, then admits herself into a mental institution for awhile. Upon arriving home, Ingrid discovers Taylor Sloan (Elizabeth Olsen) in a magazine article, follows her on Instagram, and commences an obsessive relationship with her.
Later, Ingrid comes across funds that her deceased mom bequeathed her and relocates to California to stalk Taylor. Ingrid does manage to have one genuine friend, her landlord and neighbor Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson). Otherwise, she is constantly looking at her Instagram feed to find Taylor's location and waits to meets her in person. Once finds Taylor's address, she steals her dog, waits until the missing dog signs are put up. Ingrid then returns it, and the evening ends with dinner and cocktails. Ingrid and Taylor hang out several times, and do build a kind of friendship. However, when Taylor's brother Nicky (Billy Magnussen) reveals Ingrid's dishonesty, Taylor of course cuts ties with her, which causes Ingrid to become even more unhinged.
Social media and mental illness do not go hand-in-hand. Depression makes discontent worse. Nevertheless, “Ingrid Goes West” delivers an eye-opening commentary, making a good case for mental disorders being diagnosed sooner, not later, and that social media does not fix problems. Social media allows us to connect with folks on the most basic level, but face-to-face and telephone communications will always prevail. Comments are misunderstood for various reasons, with and without emojis to support the message. Alas, “Ingrid Goes West” will hit home for millennials. From Ms. Thorburn to Mr. Pinto, every character is easily identifiable with that generation's habits.
Despite the generally predictable narrative, Plaza, Olsen, and Jackson give dazzling performances and have excellent chemistry. Plaza is definitely underappreciated as an actress, even after giving two great performances in Jeff Baena’s “The Little Hours” and here. She allows us to have compassion for a character so pathetically, dangerously deluded. The same can be said for Olsen, who is as brilliant here as she is in Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River.” However, Magnussen is a bit underwhelming due to the fact that his character Nicky doesn’t come into the picture until the very end. Still, we can equally hope for Taylor will be rescued from the psychopathic Ingrid and for Ingrid to be cured.
Ultimately, “Ingrid Goes West” reinforces the fact social media does not replace devoted relationships. We may find ourselves alternating between social media accounts due to boredom and nothing new in the feed. Yet, boredom is mended simply by establishing intimate relationships with like-minded folks. But it is frightening how addicting those likes from strangers can be.