Fake news didn’t start with government-sponsored twitter-trolls and Facebook misinformation scams by hostile interests. It began with each and every one of us editing, polishing and curating our lives for families, friends and strangers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest. “Ingrid Goes West” provides a cautionary tale of the perils of trying to fill the emptiness inside with the approval of others.
Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is a lonely, troubled young woman with an unhealthy obsession with social media, confusing likes and comments for meaningful connections and relationships. Following a spell in psychiatric care where she is ‘cured’ of her problem, she casually interacts with Instagram ‘influencer’ Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olson) and another obsession is born. Moving to Los Angeles to be closer to her would-be BFF, Ingrid quickly insinuates herself into Taylor’s seemingly idyllic existence.
There’s a moral ambivalence to “Ingrid Goes West” which gives room for Aubrey Plaza to deliver a complex and nuanced performance as, essentially, the anti-hero of the piece. It may come down to your own inherent prejudices and biases as to how you’ll see her: victim or perpetrator. In reality, both her and Elizabeth Olson’s character are victims of the same vapid, vacuous culture of oversharing, manipulation and a desperate need for external affirmation.
While Ingrid’s approach may seem the more dangerous, using her knowledge of what Taylor Sloane has shared on Instagram to ingratiate through imitation – a sort of single white #filter – it’s as things start to unravel that we find out both of them are essentially living a lie and that the bright flame of Sloane’s lifestyle which attracts Ingrid like a moth is just the bright tip of a regular old bonfire of vanity.
Aubrey Plaza does terrific work, adding shading and depth to her usual deadpan delivery, bringing Ingrid to poignant life while Elizabeth Olson likewise impresses as the social media guru who may have no substance to back up the polished façade of her image-conscious lifestyle. O’Shea Jackson Jr also stands out as perhaps the only decent, functional human being in the whole movie, a wholesomely down to earth figure with whom Ingrid accidentally and unknowingly starts to form a real relationship with.
Blackly comic, expertly paced and despairingly accurate, “Ingrid Goes West” is a bleak satire on a social media and celebrity culture which ensnares and tarnishes everyone involved in it. Please RT.