Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West juggles a boatload of contemporary issues, whether it be the influx of social media influencers who take pictures of trendy foods, furniture and art as their primary source of income, or people living “auxiliary” lives who crave the world’s approval. It chronicles a world beset by glamour, obsession and charlatanism, and as the film shows us, it’s a world that risks buckling under the weight of its artificiality. Where is meaning when the wholesome, hipster social media starlet is as fabricated a persona as the woman who stalks her and, eventually, weasels her way into her life? The vapidity is funny at first, yes. Then it becomes sad. The quest for self-validation via the path of the overnight celebrity is like a virus that devours even the toughest cells in our bodies. One minute we think we are happy, but before we know it, something manages to smash the wall we built, exposing us once more to the harsh and bitter reality of life. No Instagram account can make us immune to the lies that stare back at us from every selfie we may post.
But let’s focus on Ingrid, shall we? The antihero whose phone never leaves her side. The girl who wants others to like her—the girl who is all alone after the sudden death of her mother. Beset by serious mental illness, she takes drastic steps to find purpose and meaning, and if that requires attracting the attention of a social media personality, so be it. Aubrey Plaza portrays Ingrid as eternally complicated and volatile, making disastrous decisions that (predictably) blow up in her face sooner rather than later. Her determination to be accepted into a social milieu—even a milieu that she is unfamiliar with—lends her an element of inherent tragedy that is hard not to empathize with. I know what it’s like to feel unnoticed. I, too, have wished for social interaction just so that I could stave off the creeping spectre of loneliness. So I don’t see Ingrid as a deranged destroyer of all things good. Deep down, I believe all she wants is someone to call her a friend. Her methods are the wrong ones, yes, but boy do I wish I had half the gumption she does. Like, I can’t even muster up enough courage to send people DMs on Twitter, for Christ’s sake.
The fact that Ingrid Goes West is weirdly relatable is a tad disconcerting when you consider its central character is mentally unstable, so I’d like to assure my followers that the film’s relatability stems from Ingrid’s debilitating isolation rather than her self-destructive behaviour. I think Spicer does a very good job of folding in the satirical aspects of social media stardom alongside Ingrid’s constant struggle with her inner demons, and what results is a highly potent mix of dramatic depth with a comedy of manners for the Instagram age.
Oh yeah, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. is really effing charming in this, with all his Batman fanboying.