In 2008 the cellphone trendsetters decided to equate larger screens to a cutting edge, more appealing cell phone. The hottest cellphones preceding those of 2008 were marketed as commendably tiny. Nowadays, large screens are par for the course. But there’s one size-quality-combo smartphones are unlikely to match: a fifty foot wide movie theater screen. Such limitations may have inspired writer/director Matt Spicer to use animated scrolling of the iOS Instagram app as the opening shot of his first feature film Ingrid Goes West. When a contrived and overly enthusiastic female voice accompanies the scrolling Instagram profile on the screen it’s hard to tell if this feature was a desperate effort to connect with an over-connected generation or an artistic choice. Once the shot switches from enlarged screenshots to the hysterically crying Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) it’s clear this film is a well-done satire with clever winks at the millennial-aesthetic.
Ingrid’s lonely, uneventful life in an empty home is juxtaposed with the life of those behind the filtered screen of her iPhone. Coincidentally, Ingrid comes across Taylor Sloane (Ashley Olsen), an instagram-icon in California. Her discovery of Sloane is the catalyst for her choice to uproot what is left of her life and head to the west coast. The inheritance makes her mother’s death bittersweet for Ingrid. But nonetheless she has the funds to begin her life out west.
Once Ingrid arrives in California in the latter half of the film, the comedic elements of the film starts to flesh out. Ingrid had trouble navigating her own life in the safe suburbs so her naive mistakes in California, paired with the large sum of cash she’s carrying around is the perfect hyperbole for everyone new to the world of “adulthood.”
Ingrid uses Sloane’s Instagram as a map to conspicuously follow Sloane and stage a scene to spark interest in the ‘friendship.” While Ingrid is chasing validation from Taylor, Taylor is seeking validation from her twenty-six thousand Instagram fans. And the audience begs the question: Which effort is more dangerous? We never really find out. But it becomes clear the iPhone is worsening every element of this disastrous situation.
A tremendous aid in this film’s humor is Dan Pinto, Ingrid’s landlord and love-interest. Although an afterthought, it’s empowering and refreshing to see the romantic aspects of this film on the back-burner while two females in a complicated friendship take the lead. Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) is the source of light that ensures Ingrid Goes West leaves the audience with a corky, goofy taste in their mouth, rather than a bitter one.
There is a unique element of suspense throughout the second half of the film. Although Ingrid’s obstacles and injuries are self-inflicted, the viewer can’t help but root for her. The audience’s hope for her success is probably attributed to the fact that her objective is so clear: to forge a celebrity friendship to fill the void and remain discreet about her past life, her stalker tendencies and her chronic need to be accepted by the Instagram it-girl. Ingrid Goes West is exciting, original and effectively depicts the pros and cons of an iPhone’s instantaneous nature.
Illustration by Hua Chen