Did someone say stalker?
Meet Ingrid Thorburn: your average, everyday weirdo. Played by Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid has no friends, no life, and an insatiable obsession with Instagram. We first encounter her trolling through the site, liking dozens of photos from a girl’s wedding. In her tear-stained, mascara-smeared state we assume that she has been left out of her best friend’s magical day. However, Ingrid has a problem. She cannot differentiate between her followers on Instagram and her friends in real life (of which, as I said, she has none). So she does what any unhinged, rejected non-friend would do; she gate crashes the wedding, pepper sprays the bride and screams “THANKS FOR THE INVITE, B*TCH!”.
After a stint in the psych ward, Ingrid returns to an empty home. The echoes of her recently deceased mother remain, the hospital bed still settled amongst the armchairs. With nothing to do and no one to talk to, Ingrid spends her days on Instagram. Her phone becomes an extra limb, an extension of her arm, of her hand. Eventually, she discovers Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Instagram star from California. Upon receiving a hefty inheritance from her mother, Ingrid decides to take the cash, move to California and insinuate herself into Taylor’s life.
Taylor is the definition of cool. With an attractive husband, an enviable wardrobe, a bohemian home and a stellar personality, her life is seemingly perfect. However, what Ingrid doesn’t realise is that Instagram doesn’t show the cracks. It doesn’t show that Taylor’s husband is an alcoholic, that her brother is a drug addict. It doesn’t show Taylor’s superficiality, the way she probes strangers to take ‘just one more photo’ and how she befriends people who will up her Instagram following.
Ingrid Goes West is a lesson for those of us who have integrated ourselves into the digital world of social media and have since failed to return from it. We’ve all been there, obsessed with the online realm and lost in the belief that our own lives, the ones that we live and breathe, are just not good enough. Ingrid Goes West so cleverly mirrors the truth of today’s existence, with our apps and our tablets and our constant desire to escape.
Director Matt Spicer depicts a reality in which Instagram has taken over, an idea that is not so far from the truth. Though Ingrid eventually comes to realise that social media is a farce, the film’s conclusion has us wondering if she can ever learn her lesson or if she’ll simply fall back into the time-consuming, life-wasting web of it all.
Though Taylor will never admit to it, her world is as fake as the friendship that Ingrid manufactures between them. Her perfect life is a construction, a carefully crafted creation, a sham. She fools herself into believing the lies that her Instagram tells her, and encourages the rest of the world to believe them too. Ingrid Goes West is not a story but a truth, one that exists in the reality of today’s society. It is a wakeup call, a cry for help.
Personally, I don’t like social media. I know what it does to people because I have seen what it can do to me. We start to care more about the angle of the photo than the generosity of the stranger holding the camera. You have a chance here to learn from Ingrid and Taylor, but I expect that I have already lost you to the photo that friend just posted from her perfect holiday with her perfect tan and her perfect life and her perfect world.
The production was delayed by some setbacks when director Matt Spicer accidentally walked through a sliding glass door after yelling “cut” and gaffers had to remove fragments of glass from his arm with duct tape. At one point the production had to evacuate their location due to the raging Santa Clarita brush fires in L.A. county.