Ingrid Goes West, with great performances by Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza, examines our relationship with social media [Review]

This dark comedy is also a thoughtful look at how one's Instagram feed twists the reality of both the person who posts and their followers

Nicola Chan |

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Ingrid Goes West shows that being featured in someone's Instagram feed doesn't mean you're really friends.

Hashtags, “likes”, refresh buttons, and new notifications. These are the things that drive Ingrid’s (Aubrey Plaza) addiction in Ingrid Goes West, an insightful look at the impact of our always connected social media landscape.

Obsessed with the dazzling world of Instagram, Ingrid is a little lost and desperate about not having as happy of a life as her only friend Charlotte. After ruining their friendship (by crashing Charlotte’s wedding and pepper spraying her, no less), Ingrid begins stalking popular Instagram influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).

She evens goes as far as to move to Los Angeles and puts up a façade of her own personality to befriend Taylor. Though she’s successful in becoming Taylor’s friend, her constructed identity and hidden motives are challenged and unveiled by Taylor’s wild brother Nicky Sloane (Billy Magnussen).

With a sleek runtime of 97 minutes, this dark comedy has a great cast of actors who bring distinctiveness to all their roles. You’ll also enjoy plenty of chuckles as the writing is sharp, and the delivery is on point.

But don’t be fooled by just the silly and at times inappropriate jokes. They only exist to make the potential problems and the ugly truth of social media indulgence less difficult to confront.

Ingrid Goes West brilliantly captures the danger of overreliance on social media, how it can invade our privacy, as well as the way it subconsciously shapes the way we look at ourselves and define happiness.

For instance, instead of looking within for happiness, Ingrid has an insatiable thirst for approval from the external world (e.g. the likes and positive comments from her followers) and therefore lives her life according to what others would like to see and “like”.

Absorbed in a never ending comparison of her life with others who portray their lives as idyllic, she is sucked into a personal hell where she constantly feels inadequate, bitter and hysterical.

Not only does the movie succeed in questioning the truthfulness of the “reality” that we perceive on social media, it also looks at the muted loneliness and often overlooked emotional struggles of users who pretend to be leading a perfect life.

The loveliest surprise of Ingrid Goes West is in its ambiguous - and therefore interesting - ending. While the entire film gives the general impression that social media is a big lie constructed by partial and selective curation of only positive moments, director Matt Spicer does not end the movie with an absolute disapproval of the effects of social media.

Rather, he allows the audience to make the final decision, so they can take time to reflect on whether the use of social media is radically harmful, or if we can be learn to be masters of it.

With a beautiful balance between lighthearted humour and the urgency and weightiness of its subject matter, Ingrid Goes West is very relevant to our modern world and deserves your attention.

Edited by Jamie Lam