ingrid goes west and young adult both focus on characters who desire to live more happy, secure, noticed lives; people who hope to be, or, perhaps more accurately, defined as, more “liked,” through mimicking and false representing in order to gain public validation. each film puts the respective focus on two differing strategists as they attempt to will their social fantasies into reality. neither mavis (charlize theron in young adult) nor ingrid (aubrey plaza in ingrid goes west) are actually how they present themselves to others, both online and in their “real” worlds… but at the same time, are any of us?
mavis in young adult seems to ~have it all~ (similar to elizabeth olsen’s taylor in ingrid goes west) as a “successful,” metropolitan author, who escaped her boring hometown and succeeded in obtaining a “better, most quality” life. but behind this high class front reveals a life decelerating to a near stop. she often imagines the “what if,” what it would be like if she were to ever have become “normal,” become the mother and wife she was supposed to and who she thought she would become. would she then be more happy? when mavis returns to her hometown to try and win back her first love, her high school boyfriend and the father of her miscarried child, buddy (patrick wilson), she attaches to and lives vicariously through her persona, the victorious, sultry ~cool girl~ she thinks everyone believes she has become. she couldn’t possibly imagine a more simple, average family man like buddy would be able to resist her, causing her to frequently dismiss the, in her eyes, “less than” matt (patton oswald), an old classmate and new confidant. after mavis is rejected by buddy and the rest of the people she assumed she would easily impress and intimidate, she’s tries to almost literally attach herself to matt by having sex with him, only to wake up the next morning seeming just as disconnected. she is only comforted in one of the final scenes by one of her easily influenced fans, sandra (collette wolfe), matt’s sister (“everyone wishes that they could be like you… / …thank you. i needed that.”). mavis is ultimately validated for her false facade, her ability to manipulate other’s into thinking she’s the “ideal,” living the life people only strive for. in the end, she takes no accountability for anything she’s done or become, because she doesn’t need to in her world. and even when she tries to be vulnerable, detail her sadness, her dissatisfaction, her inability to accept her reality… she isn’t listened to.
aubrey plaza’s ingrid in ingrid goes west is a lot like sandra in young adult. sandra genuinely looks up to mavis. she wants to be liked, even just be recognized, by someone of mavis’ supposed stature and reputation. ingrid desires that too: connection. ingrid’s mother, her “best friend,” dies offscreen and after ingrid returns from the hospital seeking treatment for her mental illness, she regresses deeply and aggressively to social media, desperate to seek a loyal friend. and not just any friend, but an internet influencer, one who has turned her life into a lifestyle catalogue and online beauty boutique soon-to-be literally consumed, elizabeth olsen’s taylor sloane. a seemingly otherworldly, spontaneous, and “perfect” human being. a type of perfection that can only exist on intagram. ingrid becomes obsessed, moving to los angeles in attempts to becoming taylor’s new best friend. ingrid’s actions to force and stalk her way into the friendship are heightened to fit within the more genre influenced dark comedy landscape ingrid goes west fits it, but the “friendship” between ingrid and taylor, while extreme, is not without recognition. the power dynamics of their friendship were clear from the beginning: taylor made the final plans, ingrid (mostly) gladly followed, a type of dynamic not uncommon for insecure people like ingrid to fall into. taylor eventually decides to move onto a more socially relevant and “followed” person to be “best friends” with, causing ingrid to, yet again, experience true heartbreak. ingrid’s dishonesty and cinematically dangerous clinginess broke up their friendship, but taylor’s ability to recycle people in her quest for social mobility and literal “followers” on the internet shouldn’t be ignored when dissecting her character.
mavis and taylor meticulously control their personalities and appearances in order to be exactly what everyone expects, demands, and rewards them for being, and they still clearly feed off that and enjoy those pleasures and privileges, even if they don’t want to admit or recognize what makes them unhappy: that they too still aren’t able to connect to the people they want to and know that the connections they do have aren’t necessarily based on truth. ingrid and sandra both clearly aspire for the ideal which has been sold to them through the mainstream. with ingrid goes west, we get to see that type of character go through a twisted journey towards social mobility initially hinted at in some of the final scenes featuring wolfe’s sandra in young adult, all the way to heartbreaking decisions and weirdly unsurprising results within the sometimes extremely vapid internet world.
both films help to illustrate the relatable desire to be someone you’re “not.” to be seen as someone more interesting, more special. they explore false human connection and the techniques we use to ignore the fallacies many of those relationships are built upon. they explore selfishness and vulnerability in their undeniable overlap within us all. the films explore how easily we crumble, but how adaptable we can become to do whatever it is we think we need to in order to survive, no matter how fabricated.
Very rarely do the worlds of comedy and psychological thriller come into each other orbits. That’s probably because they’re, in many ways, polar opposites as genres.
That being said, Ingrid Goes West not only manages to be a darkly hysterical descent into madness of Aubrey Plaza’s Ingrid, but director/co-writer Matt Spicer and co-writer David Branson Smith both keep suspense the whole way through as well. Think of it as somewhere between What About Bob? and Nightcrawler and Young Adult.
We hope you can get all of that from this new, satisfyingly NSFW red band trailer.
Look for Ingrid Goes West in limited release on August 11th, then in wide release on August 25th.