Private and Public Lives Collide in Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) moves out West and stalks a popular Instagram influencer in an attempt to reinvigorate her life


In Ingrid Goes West, Matt Spicer—who also co-wrote the film with David Branson Smith—brings to the fore the transformative power of social media, in this case, Instagram; not just its capability to sate desires of fame and solidarity, however, but also its destructive force of alienation, the desperate need to refresh and see a new notification. After the death of her mother, Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) comes into an inheritance of over $60,000 to which she uses to reinvent her life. Stalking Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), an Instagram influencer out in California, Thorburn befriends the latter after secretly kidnapping and returning her dog. The two embark on a series of hip adventures: visits to Joshua Tree, a night under the desert stars, and so on. Each moment becomes obsessively documented by Taylor, uploaded online. Her photos in turn become a synecdoche of her life. For Ingrid, Taylor’s down-to-Earth lifestyle, arguably a marketing facade for the corporations hiring her, beats back an absence of purpose; the encroachment of severe depression and anxiety. Spicer and Smith’s script remains a nuanced portrayal of mental illness throughout, and in using social media as their lens, the two never resort to Luddite interpretations of new technology. A modern film in this regard if only a bit tepid at times. Spicer’s aesthetics and imaginative fervor seem bounded by the American-indie film standard, striking a balance between accessible but just the right amount of off-kilter.

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