Looks at so­cial me­dia’s dark side

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Quick, what’s more im­por­tant: so­cial me­dia or real life?

For the ti­tle char­ac­ter in In­grid Goes West, there is no ques­tion, and per­haps no dis­tinc­tion.

Pow­ered by Aubrey Plaza’s sear­ing per­for­mance, di­rec­tor and co-writer Matt Spicer’s fea­ture de­but ex­plores such a dark side of so­cial me­dia ob­ses­sion, it’s hard to con­sider it satire. It’s a story about young women who find val­i­da­tion in likes and fol­low­ers, who equate so­cial me­dia ex­pe­ri­ences with real-life ones.

Like so many mil­len­ni­als, In­grid (Plaza) is an In­sta­gram junkie. Her phone is al­ways in hand, a por­tal to all with hash­tags, such as #perfect and #blessed. Any free mo­ment is spent scrolling through pho­tos. The dou­ble-thumb-tap she uses to “like” images is as in­stinc­tive as blink­ing.

But she’s also ob­ses­sive and men­tally un­sta­ble. She once crashed a wed­ding and at­tacked the bride af­ter fix­at­ing on her ex­pertly cu­rated In­sta­gram profile.

Flush with cash af­ter her mother dies, In­grid moves to Los An­ge­les to be near her lat­est so­cial me­dia ob­ses­sion: Blonde, beau­ti­ful Tay­lor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), whose life on In­sta­gram looks like a chic Cal­i­for­nia mag­a­zine cap­tioned with lit­er­ary quotes and hash­tags like #week­end­vibes.

In­grid styles her hair like Tay­lor’s. She eats at her fa­vorite break­fast spot. She buys the purse Tay­lor posted about. Then she works out a way to meet the In­sta­gram star so they can be friends.

Olsen is pitch perfect as sunny, su­per­fi­cial Tay­lor, who says every­thing is “the best” and has no qualms about ask­ing a gas sta­tion at­ten­dant to lay on the ground to snap a per­fect­lyframed so­cial me­dia pic­ture.

The screen­play by Spicer and co-writer David Bran­son Smith looks at how Tay­lor’s ap­petite for ad­mi­ra­tion might al­low for a friend like In­grid — her syco­phan­tic fawn­ing feeds right into Tay­lor’s mil­lion-fol­lower ego.

Plaza dis­ap­pears into the un­hinged In­grid, a char­ac­ter ex­cit­ing in her sheer un­like­abil­ity. She lies and steals to get what she wants. She ex­ploits trust and kind­ness. But she brims with a deep hu­man fear of in­ad­e­quacy, one she hopes in­ter­net pop­u­lar­ity might rem­edy. Plaza brings a vul­ner­a­bil­ity and des­per­a­tion to In­grid that makes her re­lat­able. She’s ob­ses­sive and un­sta­ble, but she just wants to be liked, on­line or any­where.

O’Shea Jack­son plays In­grid’s land­lord, neigh­bor and ad­mirer Dan, this story’s ver­sion of the manic pixie dream girl. Though Jack­son gets to show off his sparkling smile more here than in Straight Outta Comp­ton, his char­ac­ter ex­ists to be In­grid’s sav­ior and moral foil.

In­grid Goes West has fun with some so­cial me­dia tropes and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia ten­den­cies, but it feels less like a satire than a cau­tion­ary tale, for both the en­vi­ous and the en­vied. It dips into rich ter­ri­tory by ex­am­in­ing the cov­etous­ness so­cial me­dia in­spires, not just for things, but for at­ten­tion. Still, even some­one with mil­lions of fol­low­ers can feel lonely or un­seen.

Tay­lor and In­grid may ap­proach In­sta­gram from op­po­site sides but both live in a world where “likes” have tremen­dous value.


Ac­tors Billy Mag­nussen (from left), Aubrey Plaza, Pom Kle­men­ti­eff, and Elizabeth Olsen, and di­rec­tor Matt Spicer at the pre­miere of In­gridGoesWest in Hollywood, Cal­i­for­nia.

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