“Ingrid Goes West” (2017). Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnusson, Pom Klementieff, Meredith Hagner. Director: Matt Spicer. Screenplay: David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer. Web site. Trailer.

We all want to be liked. But how far are we willing to go to achieve that outcome? And what if it gets the better of us, becoming an unhealthy obsession? That’s the stuff of which the incisive new comedy-drama “Ingrid Goes West” is made of.

Twentysomething Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) has issues. Most notably, she’s obsessed with being liked and popular, a compulsiveness driven by her nearly constant surfing of social media pages, where she ogles over the countless photos of smiling, happy people living cheerful, fun-loving, carefree, perfect lives. And, not to be left out, Ingrid wants some of that for herself. But, in her desire to attain such notoriety, sometimes Ingrid slips over the edge of reasonableness and common sense.

After an unfortunate incident at the wedding reception of one of her supposedly dear social media friends (Meredith Hagner) – an event to which Ingrid is not invited – she’s committed to a mental health facility to work out her problems. Upon her release, she’s allegedly cured, but, before long, she’s back online, hunting new besties to follow. This is especially important to Ingrid now since the one person who had been an important part of her life – her mother – passed away while she was undergoing treatment. It’s a sad and lonely time for the protagonist. But it’s also one where some of the sting of loss vanishes when she learns that her mother had left her an inheritance of $60,000.

While contemplating her future, Ingrid stumbles upon a potential new social media crush, a bubbly, effervescent, eminently photogenic Californian named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Seemingly overnight, Taylor’s ubiquitous photos take over social media. She’s the person everyone is supposed to want to be, even though Taylor herself is one of those Kardashian-esque celebrities who has become famous for having done virtually nothing worthy of note. Yet, inspired by Taylor’s lifestyle, and with a wad of cash in hand, Ingrid decides to go west to meet the enviable Ms. Sloane.

Once in California, Ingrid tracks down Taylor and begins hatching a plan to ingratiate herself into the life of the social media icon and her artist husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell). In doing so, however, Ingrid engages in a series of questionable acts involving her landlord (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Taylor’s crazy brother (Billy Magnusson) and even the happy couple’s dog. Ingrid gets away with her plans for a while, but, when her tactics – which are tantamount to clandestine stalking – are found out, she’s forced into taking even more drastic measures to cover her tracks. And all for the sake of a little attention.

With her latest social media crush in tow, Internet stalker Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza, right) poses for one of countless photos with cultural influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen, left) in director Matt Spicer’s debut feature, “Ingrid Goes West.” Photo courtesy of Neon.

So why is Ingrid so obsessive? Pure and simple, she’s lonely and wants to be liked. She feels left out, too, especially when she sees all the images of blissfully smiling faces pasted all over social media. But is forcefully inserting oneself into the lives of those individuals really the best course to follow?

Ingrid’s chief mistake in this is looking outside of herself for happiness. She believes that the external trappings associated with an active social (and active social media) life will bring her the joy and contentment she seeks. In doing this, she fails to grasp the principal message of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents – elements that originate from within us.

Indeed, if we want to enjoy a life of happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment, that has to begin with us. It comes from those very thoughts, beliefs and intents we employ to create the existence surrounding us. It can’t be extracted from an externalized materialization, no matter how seemingly elegant, glamorous or fun-filled it may appear. Until Ingrid comes to realize this, she’ll have to endure considerable discouragement, even at the hands of those who claim to be her friend. And it’s even more disillusioning when she learns that those who lead such supposedly enviable lives are engaged in acts of self-deception just as much as she is. The key question here is, who among them will come to this realization first – or at all?

One of the aims behind the creation of social media was the hope that it would bring people closer together. Ironically, though, it’s often had just the opposite effect. Many users have become disillusioned – even depressed – over what they see, wondering why their lives aren’t as fulfilled and perfect as those whose pictures they see online. This can result in increasing personal isolation or the extreme behavior exhibited by individuals like Ingrid. In either case, though, the dissatisfaction arises from those who brought it about in the first place for failing to recognize where their contentment truly originates.

This naturally raises the question, if this really is the result of this collective creation of ours, then why did we manifest it to begin with? That’s hard to say, but perhaps it’s because we need to go through this experience to get this essential lesson in reality creation. If the disappointment that comes from this helps to point us in the direction of the true source of where our happiness lies, then perhaps it’s a worthwhile effort, despite its associated difficulties. Should this be the case, though, we’d better pay attention.

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) mimics the habits of her latest social media crush – right down to her choice in reading materials – in the scathingly devastating new comedy-drama, “Ingrid Goes West.” Photo courtesy of Neon.

As a scathingly devastating dressing down of social media culture and our vapid fascination with today’s undeservedly overrated adult iterations of “the popular kids,” “Ingrid Goes West” hits the mark dead-on in a wide array of respects. Aubrey Plaza shows acting chops never seen before, delivering a solid, award-worthy performance in the role of the troubled title character. The protagonist’s portrayal is more than capably backed by a strong cast of supporting players who execute their roles with precision and insightful accuracy. And punctuating it all is a razor-sharp script peppered with big laughs that provide a perfect foil to the film’s darker, more dramatic moments.

Those who easily see through the thin veneer of what’s supposedly laudable these days will handily detect the unfortunate shallowness of many of our collective ways wickedly brought to life in this impressive debut feature from director Matt Spicer. Let’s hope the message sinks in – especially amongst those most in need of getting it.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

 

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