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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Go west, millennial girl

Graphic+by+Kaitlyn+Patterson+20.
Graphic by Kaitlyn Patterson ’20.

“Ingrid Goes West” is a must-see.

Film has always been quick to jump on trends, no matter how outlandish. From now-dated concepts like roller disco, sidehacking and the Lambada to lasting pieces of culture like superheroes, musicals and Channing Tatum, Hollywood knows how to latch onto something and exploit it, no matter how briefly or enduringly it lasts in the public eye.

It’s strange, then, that not too many films have placed a major emphasis on social media, one of the more dominant and ever-present elements of this decade. Most use a website for a plot point, inncidental to the film. “The Social Network,” probably the best-known movie focused on social media, discusses the creation of Facebook and its founders. But few movies, if any, focus on the realistic mental effects of social media use. In that respect, the indie film “Ingrid Goes West” is a trailblazer.

A dark comedy and the feature debut of writer-director Matt Spicer, the film stars Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”), Elizabeth Olsen (“Captain America: Civil War”) and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (“Straight Outta Compton”).

The film opens on Ingrid (Plaza) a mentally unstable woman who is obsessed with Instagram. One day, while at her lowest point, Ingrid finds an Instagram celebrity named Taylor (Olsen) and is overjoyed when she replies to a comment Ingrid posts on a photo. Following this, Ingrid cashes a check she inherited from her late mother and moves from Pennsylvania to Taylor’s home of Los Angeles. What follows is a portrait of obsession as Ingrid does everything within her power to become Taylor’s best friend and achieve her level of online fame.

Plaza might be a surprising candidate to play Ingrid, but her performance is easily the standout. She showed a remarkable ability to embrace awkwardness on “Parks and Rec,” which she uses to great effect  during her stunted interactions with Olsen. Additionally, Plaza has immediate chemistry with Jackson, who plays her landlord and love interest, and the development of their relationship is a charming complement to the darker main plot.

In addition, “Ingrid” works as a thriller. Tension builds slowly and effectively under Spicer’s direction and script, and the film looks good to boot. It’s filled with vibrant colors and the gorgeous backdrop of California, all hiding an awful truth.

The initial reaction a viewer would have to Ingrid’s character is one of pity, appall and sympathy, all in rapid succession. She is pitiable because she bases her whole life around Instagram and appalling because of the lengths she goes to in order to feel a true human connection with Taylor. But the audience is still sympathetic anyway, because we all see a bit of ourselves in Plaza’s Ingrid. The character has an unsatisfied need for acceptance, validation and happiness, and as hard as she tries, she doesn’t find it in the shallow world of Instagram. Happy montages of brunches and beach days with Taylor feel hollow and fake, and Ingrid takes joy in them only due to the likes and comments she receives. It’s a simple but necessary warning to the current generation: you are not your likes, and you are not your online self.

From all outward appearances, social media is going to be around for a while. For that reason, future films need to take a cue from “Ingrid Goes West” in discussing the true impact of social media on peoples’ lives.

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