Trapped in my window seat on the way home from Phoenix, and having flown enough that I exhausted all of the interesting movies, I decided to watch the movie Ingrid Goes West.
The movie opens with Ingrid Thorburn crashing a wedding in Pennsylvania and pepper spraying the bride in the face because Ingrid had discovered that she was getting married on Instagram and Ingrid hadn’t been invited. Next stop: Mental asylum. So opens this movie which lightly explores how the fake world of Instagram affects the actual world that we live in.
Ingrid, once she gets released from the asylum, spends her days scrolling through Instagram and tapping twice (thus “liking”) pretty much every photograph she scrolls through. She does this almost by rote, as if it is a required school assignment and obviously doesn’t get any joy from what she is doing. She is trapped and enslaved to Instagram.
Ingrid comes across a random woman in Southern California and gets infatuated with following her life, at the same time she receives an inheritance from her recently deceased mother, she turns the 60k inheritance into a bag of cash and off she goes to California, with renewed purpose in life: to meet and get involved in the life of Taylor Sloane, her new Instagram obsession.
She manages to succeed by discovering where Taylor lives and then stealing her dog, only to return it the next day as if she found it, to the great delight of Taylor and her husband. They invite Ingrid to stay for dinner and the creepiness begins.
The one genuine person in the entire movie is Ingrid’s landlord, Dan Pinto. Ingrid borrows Dan’s truck to do a favor for Taylor and in the process does 8k worth of damage to the truck while driving high on the cocaine she found in it. Yeah, she isn’t very reliable. Dan is not happy with her to say the least, although the relationship isn’t broken completely.
Ingrid and Taylor go through various adventures before Taylor discovers that Ingrid is a psycho stalker. Ingrid concocts a plan to kidnap Taylor’s brother and talks Dan into helping her. Needless to say, the plan goes awry and Dan ends up in the hospital having been severely beaten by Taylor’s brother, whom Ingrid knocks out with a tire iron.
At the end of the movie, Ingrid, at the lowest point of her life, films herself as she takes pills to commit suicide and admits that she is trapped by her penchant for following other people’s (made up) lives on Instagram, but doesn’t think she can change. Of course, she posts the video on social media! The video goes viral and she gets messages from all over the world about how beautiful she is and how they are standing in support of her. Ingrid discovers all this when she wakes up in the hospital, having been saved from her pill overdose.
The movie ends with Ingrid smiling as she discovers that she is suddenly what she always wanted to be, an Instagram celebrity.
I think that the ending to Ingrid Goes West is purposefully ambiguous. Has Ingrid been healed from her Instagram enslavement, now that she has broadcast her “real” self to the world, or is she instantly sucked back into the world of fake, made up lives on Instagram, now that she is an Instagram celebrity? The viewer can take it either way. For myself, I took it as the latter choice. Her attempted suicide only fuels her rise as an Instagram celebrity and she hasn’t really changed.
The movie doesn’t analyze very deeply or very well the fake, made-up lives that occupy much of Instagram today, nor the affects of Instagram celebrity on individual lives. It seems to be content with observation rather than attempting to delve into the subject well. Perhaps the screenwriter was content to allow the observation to be the analysis. At any rate, Ingrid Goes West does manage to be a cautionary tale of the dangers of addiction to Instagram (not to mention other social media) and how social media shapes our lives, in this case in a very negative way.