Tue, Aug 08, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Instagram jealousy on the big screen

New indie film provides a satirical but sobering look at ‘social media envy’

By Lindsay Bahr  /  AP, LOS ANGELES

Aubrey Plaza plays a woman who becomes obsessed with a woman on Instagram, played by Elizabeth Olsen. Plaza’s character goes so far as to start dressing and acting like her social media idol, eventually even befriending her.

Photo: AP

Have you ever been jealous of someone on Instagram? Or gone down a spiral of late night scrolling that starts out as voyeurism and ends in despair? That’s the sensation captured in Ingrid Goes West, a new indie film that skewers both sides of the social media equation with uncomfortable acumen.

It’s the latest satirical pop culture effort to delve into the painful realities of the way social media impacts our lives. It’s been expressed as a hyper-exaggerated dystopia in the “Nosedive” episode of Black Mirror, which imagines a society where class and opportunity is based on social media popularity and where strangers and friends alike can impact your rating based on any interaction.

Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein also created a horror landscape in the Kenzo promotional short The Realest Real, where select fans actually get to be with the famous people they interact with online.


Then there is Ingrid Goes West, which is just close enough to reality to make you squirm. On the one end, there’s Ingrid, played by Aubrey Plaza, who we meet in a rage spiral observing a wedding she wasn’t invited to. She’s a loner with obsessive tendencies who upends her life, moves to Los Angeles and reinvents herself into the image of a stranger she’s become enchanted by on Instagram: Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).

You know a Taylor Sloane, even if you don’t think you do. She’s the woman who posts a perfect Instagram photo of the perfect vintage copy of Joan Didion’s The White Album with the perfect quote and a jumble of hashtags like #blessed and #inspiration. The one whose account is full of her Moon Juice smoothies and Erdem dresses and Clare V clutches and succulents and California sunsets and trips to Joshua Tree National Park.

She’s never getting the oil changed on her unwashed car, or paying bills, or cleaning the toilet. Maybe she’s a friend, or a friend of a friend, or maybe you follow her even though you don’t actually know her, but it’s not creepy because she has hundreds of thousands of followers. She is an “Influencer.” Not quite a celebrity, but not quite normal, her life is her brand and you are her envious admirer, devoted subject and customer.


When director and co-writer Matt Spicer envisioned the idea for Ingrid Goes West, the Black Mirror episode had not come out and he saw a void in media that examined the “love/hate” relationship he and his co-writer David Branson Smith had with social media. Both were in relationships with women who had significant followings. They knew the searing jealousy that can boil over looking in on the filtered lives of others.

“It really captured how people interact right now and the problems with that,” says Plaza, who also produced. “And I really liked the story of a girl who really wants another girl to be her friend and to like her.”

She and Olsen approached their characters without judgment. Both, in essence, just want to be liked and fit in, although Ingrid takes some dark, possibly borderline turns in her expression of that.

The filmmakers didn’t want to assign a mental illness to Ingrid, however.

“We wanted the audience to see parts of themselves in (Ingrid),” Spicer says. “We didn’t want them to write her off.”

The actresses have an understandably different relationship with social media as celebrities.

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