Matt Spicer’s debut feature film starring Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West , popped up on Netflix last week, and the ending is quite shocking.
Following the death of her mother and a series of self-inflicted setbacks, young Ingrid Thorburn escapes a humdrum existence by moving out West to befriend her Instagram obsession, a Los Angeles socialite named Taylor Sloane. After a quick bond is forged between these unlikeliest of buddies, the facade begins to crack in both women’s lives — with comically malicious results.
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This is the plot to Netflix’s Ingrid Goes West, a comedy/drama that boasts a pretty impressive cast: Billy Magnussen, Wyatt Russel, Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza.
The film cleverly makes a mockery of social influencers and other Insta-addicts. It follows Ingrid, a 20-something year old social influencer wannabe, while she tracks down and stalks her favourites social influencer. She is determined to live her glamorous life-style.
The film is surprisingly well put together and the amazing cast carries the film even during its duller moments. Aubrey Plaza, on the other hand, just plays herself. I don’t think I have ever seen her do any other character–the girl can act, that’s for sure, as is evident at the end of the movie–it is almost as if directors just told her, “just do you, Aubrey.” But it works. This seems like a role written for the actress.
The story, on the other hand, may seem a little too familiar. That’s because it feels like a modernised adaptation of Single White Female and Mean Girls, and the director is aware of this as he makes references about those movies throughout the film. Still, despite borrowing from those classic, Ingrid Goes West still has its own unique identity.
One of the film’s core themes is superficiality and insincerity and Matt Spicer does a brilliant job of conveying the feeling of fraud in every facet on the film. The connection and chemistry between characters is stinted by their own self obsessed egos, and the L.A. that Spicer built feels like an overly manufactured suburban utopia. The harsh lighting, clear skies, and colourless tone creates a Truman Show like vibe. But is the Ingrid Goes West suicide scene a bit too much?
I’m quite surprised that not a single person has voiced concern about the movies shocking ending. Especially considering the sensitivity of today’s mainstream media. Todd Phillip’s Joker is taking a lot of heat for bringing up gun violence and the potential dangerous of untreated mental illness. People are actually worried that some lonely white guy will relate to the film and feel compelled to go on a copycat murder spree. Ingrid Goes West touches upon something much realer; depression and suicide.
While these two topics are prominent throughout, the film also tackles the dangerous desire of internet fame and validation. This is a real problem today that is barely covered by mainstream media. Kids are willing to do anything to become Insta-famous. This leads to public humiliation, bullying, dangerous dares, and has often resulted in death. The world of social media is a dark one, and I think the film maker recognises that.
After Ingrid’s many failures to become liked on Instagram she breaks down feeling worthless and fake. “I’m just a loser,” Ingrid says while broadcasting live to a small audience. “I’m pathetic. I know there’s something wrong with me, but I don’t know to fix it and I don’t know hot to change. I don’t think I can change. So, maybe this is just who I am.” Right before swallowing a whole bottle of pills in front of her live audience, she says, “And I’m tired of being alone. And I’m just… I’m just tired of being me, so. I just feel like if you don’t have anyone to share everything with then what’s the point of living.” The Aubrey Plaza suicide scene is emotional.
Although it is a very touching moment that delivered with a powerful performance by Aubrey Plaza, the next scene completely contradicts itself and takes a very controversial and shocking turn. Ingrid wakes up in hospital surrounded by balloons, plushies, and other gifts. We then find out that her live suicide attempt had made her famous as ‘#IAMINGRID trended on Instagram. Ingrid has achieved her dream of becoming Insta-famous and for the first time ever, she’s happy.
That’s right. Ingrid Goes West romanticises suicide. The film ends with the notion that you need to live-stream your suicide attempt to get likes. It’s quite disturbing and a very dangerous message to the misguided, social media addicted, depressed youth of today. Shouldn’t people be just as outraged by this film as they are with the Joker?
It doesn’t matter. I am anti-censorship all the way. Like the Joker, this movie has an age rating which is there to stop young impressionable children from seeing this film and getting any ideas. As adults we can enjoy it as a bit of a social commentary, though. With that being said, if you have a child, or are perhaps caring for a mentally ill individual, you should always be responsible and shelter them from material you believe might be damaging to their psyche. Like the Aubrey Plaza suicide scene.
So, whether you are a parent or even just a social influencer yourself, responsible guardianship beats censorship any day of the week. Keep an eye on what your kids are watching.