The movie Ingrid Goes West was praised as unanimously funny, but the narrative on mental illness was met with extremely mixed reviews, so I found it necessary to check it out for myself.
The main character Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) suffers from mental illness. The movie opens with her obsessively looking at someone’s “Perfect” Instagram on their “Perfect” wedding day- that she wasn’t invited to. It’s the perfect description for “FOMO” (Fear of missing out). We’ve all been there.
Social Media perpetuates the idea that other people’s highlight reels (what they choose to share) are congruent with their real offline life. On my curated Instagram, you can see me smiling with friends, family and at work conferences- but you can’t see my struggle with Manic Depression. I don’t chronicle those appointments, meds, or down days the same way as social outings. This could lead people to believe that I don’t struggle with mental health at all.
The basic premise is that Ingrid gets tackled at a wedding for her behavior and taken away to a mental institution. When she’s released, she receives a large inheritance from her Mom who has recently passed away. She uses the inheritance money to stalk Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), who is an Instagram influencer living on the other side of the country. She becomes obsessed with becoming her friend. She ends up spending her inheritance on tracking her down using location tags and buying things to impress Taylor.
Ingrid Goes West touches on how people can project an image to support their online identities, even if that may be a disconnect from their identity behind closed doors. Ingrid is able to curate her image to Taylor’s by going to the same salon (that she tagged) and healthy restaurant (that she uploaded) and reading her favorite book (that was posted). It’s creepy to see how realistic and easy that could actually be for someone to stalk or locate someone based on our culture of oversharing. In fact, I hope this movie doesn’t inspire any copycats.
Ingrid, determined to meet Taylor in person, follows her home. She waits for her to leave, and kidnaps her dog from her house. Once the “missing” poster goes up, she appears at there home with the dog and refuses the reward. This inspires them to host a “Thank You” dinner for her instead. By this time, she has curated her list of interests to match Taylor’s, so they have a lot of similarities and become best friends just like her plan. But of course, shit gets real as her plan unravels thanks to a bratty brother who isn’t falling for her tricks.
I found that this movie excels in its commentary about social media use but is very much lacking on the mental illness angle. It perpetuates the “mentally ill people are dangerous” stigma without ever speaking to what mental illness she has. I found it insulting as someone who battles with mental health issues. It felt like this type of characterization was acceptable in the 1980’s and 1990’s but started to get stale in the early 2000’s. It didn’t just become stale because it’s such a tired storyline, it’s also because more people began to be open with their issues and we know everything shown is an over-exaggeration. What used to feel real, or you had a suspension of disbelief, now feels contrived just for the sake of the story.
I still found this movie to be quite funny, but the mental health stuff did annoy me. All in all, I do recommend you watch it for a good laugh.
This post was created with the help of Grammarly.