2017; dir. Matt Spicer
Writers: Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olson and O’Shea Jackson Jr.
What better way to demonstrate exactly how awful social media can be in American society than to make a film that deconstructs the entire process?
Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) is an obsessed sycophant that emotionally latches on to people through social media, propelling herself out of her own depression and into firey disappointment when reality comes crashing down around her. Plaza is doing her best work here, able to seamlessly swap between warm affection, cold psychosis and worrisome at the simple drop of a pin; it’s remarkable to see the range she has control of within most of her scenes.
Ingrid, using the money she inherited after her mother’s death, moves to California in order to meet Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), her new “instagram bestie.” The rest of the film is a train wreck in slow motion as we watch their relationship grow and crumble under the burden of lies she produces. Ingrid’s penchant for making things worse makes the fall that much harder to watch; even though she knocks down her own house of cards, you have to feel sorry for her.
Ingrid Goes West is an interesting animal. As much as it embraces today’s social environment, it clearly despises the very fabric of it all; it seeks to demonstrate the negative connotations of an always connected society when the desperate need for attention is only a click or two away. We feel the high when someone we attach to responds positively to us, and the lowest of lows when they reject us. It shows that the era of social media is simple smoke and mirrors, nothing more than a petri dish of selective reinforcement to give us false adoration and love in lieu of the real kind.
Comparatively speaking, Ingrid‘s counter culture message on modern society is nearly identical in theme to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, even mimicking the final twenty minutes in a cleverly divergent synchronicity – including the film’s final setting and Ingrid’s final expression just before the credits roll.
Ingrid and Clockwork both balance delicate themes about the dregs of society being enabled by the culture of their environments. Both films tell a story about their lead character spiraling out of control in their debauchery and hitting a low point that resets exposes the problems with modern society while espousing the errant behavior of its participants instead of endorsing it.
And, in an ironic twist of fate, demonstrates that at the end, humanity’s base instincts supersede all else and they are “returned” to the “normality” of their lives before the event that reshaped them; a normality rooted entirely in deviance and chaos.
Ingrid Goes West is a necessary commentary on today’s online culture, and even though heavily dramatized and excessive, the mental and physical dangers it posits are a very, very real part of today’s world.