From first-time director Matt Spicer comes a story about Instagram culture, falling heroes and Batman; in short, this film with a total piece of art and I loved (most of) it.
“Ingrid Goes West” tells the story of a troubled young woman who, in the wake of her mother’s death, becomes obsessed with a beautiful, popular Instagram influencer. With the help of her considerable inheritance, Ingrid travels across the country to meet her Instagram obsession and inserts herself into her idol’s life. This film comes at the superficial artsiness of the “Los Angeles lifestyle” and the somewhat shallow nature of your fave’s Instagram profile with guns blazing and eyes wide open. The script is engaging and darkly comedic in all the right places; it has a magnetic appeal that won’t let you tear your eyes away from the screen for a second. (Major spoilers ahead!)
I like how Spicer gives you a window into the souls of our main characters, even if, for some, you only get a passing glance. None of the story’s major players were too deep on their own, but they each had something that made them tick, and together they had such an interesting dynamic. You never questioned why any of them were doing anything, because it always made sense. For the most part, they felt like people you could know.
Somehow, I had some level of sympathy for most of these characters, no matter how despicable their actions. However, I will maintain that Daniel is the only truly redeemable character in this film. His obsession with Batman made him just the right shade of quirky for a movie about California hipsters, and he was lovable enough that it hurt to watch Ingrid take advantage of him. Although they end up together, I still ended up questioning the degree to which her relationship with Daniel was real. Maybe we were meant to see the shift after he bared his soul to her, but to me, it just kind of seemed like she was still using him.
Ingrid herself was an extremely interesting character to watch. She’s certainly sad and broken, but she’s also driven and a bit reckless. You spend the whole movie watching this girl lie and obsess, all the while slowly realizing that her new “friend” isn’t really someone worth emulating. Publishing Insta posts that make your life look good is as easy as ordering a disgusting cauliflower dish at a trendy restaurant, or getting your hair done at the same salon as a celebrity. But none of that would be real or fulfilling. Ingrid eventually discovers that copying her Insta idols and living out their dream California lives won’t make her any less lonely (or any less of a stalker), but she just runs her whole life into the ground anyway because she can’t help it. That’s when, understandably, she becomes convinced that she might be incapable of change. First her mom, then Charlotte, then Taylor; she’s so focused on living for others that she doesn’t know how to accept her own company as enough or recognize her life as something with value and potential.
But even with Ingrid’s static state of mind having been established, I had a problem with the ending. It made it seem like Ingrid’s publicly posted suicide attempt solved all her problems. Like trying to end her life (and even more specifically, posting about it) was a good idea, the source of the happy ending, when that entire idea is completely hypocritical to the lesson she should have been learning. I would have liked to see Ingrid make a different decision after Taylor confronts her at that Halloween party. I would have liked to see her walk away from all this, perhaps even leaving her phone behind. But instead, she wonders to herself, “If you don’t have anyone to share it with, what’s the point of living?”, which suggests that this experience hasn’t taught her much at all, but rather confirmed and heightened her loneliness. The ending where this still leads to her getting the guy and the millions of followers isn’t a complete, satisfying arc; it just kind of opens it up for the same thing to happen all over again.
Perhaps she’ll be OK. She certainly isn’t lonely anymore. But the idea that a public suicide attempt was all she needed to garner support and find people who care about her (strangers that most likely see in her in the same, shallow inspiration that Ingrid herself once found in Taylor or Charlotte) is really unhealthy, and it didn’t sit well with me. What really could have turned this movie around for me was if, at the big moment of decision at that party, Ingrid decided to delete her Instagram, turn away from this whole endeavor, and never look back, beginning a life that was, for the first time, truly her own.