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« Months of Meryl: The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) | Main | Amy Adams Channels Warhol's Portraits »
Thursday
Feb082018

Blueprints: "Ingrid Goes West"

In the latest installment of our screenplay column, Jorge takes a look at the tricky task of making a phone screen visually engaging.

As technology becomes more efficient and finds new ways to make our lives easier, it’s making the job of screenwriting more difficult. It’s now nearly impossible to not be able to reach a person in some way (once a common source of screen conflict) and, worse for the visual montony, most of our day-to-day activities include staring at some kind of screen.

Ingrid Goes West didn't just incorporate how we relate to technology today, but made it its central theme. Let’s look at the underrated gem to see how the use of technology is captured in its pages, and how the writers made it as emotionally thrilling as any action movie car chase...

Ingrid Goes West
Written by: David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer
[You can read the full script here. I will be talking about these pages and this scene.]

Ingrid Woes West revolves around a mentally unstable young woman, the titular Ingrid (played by Aubrey Plaza in a role that knows how to use her Aubrey Plaza-ness), who projects the fulfillment of her emotional needs onto Taylor Sloane (a never-better Elizabeth Olsen), an Instagram celebrity that she decides to follow, befriend, and live vicariously through.

The film is about how social media can provide a false sense of meaning, purpose and fulfillment; both to the people that put out their camera-perfect (but deeply flawed) lives into the world, and to the people for whom consuming those lives makes them long for the unattainable. 

Very few movies have put current social media trends and anxieties front and center, and I’d argue Ingrid Goes West does it superbly, accurately reflecting what they do to our psyche. But making a movie about what it’s like to scroll through someone’s profile and the roller coaster of emotions that it entails can be tricky. How can a writer effectively and visually convey an action that is mostly static and internal? 

Well, they make the script read as visually and tonally hectic as a scroll through your Instagram feed.

 

Ingrid is sinking into her lonely lifestyle when she discovers Taylor’s profile. And, as many of us can sheepishly relate, descends into a rabbit hole of her photo history. It's all cleverly conveyed through montage so the audience sees their screen overtaken by Taylor’s constant flow of content, just like Ingrid’s is. 

As photo after photo flashes before us, Taylor reads the captions in a solemn and deeply invested voice-over, which perfectly mimics the faux earnestness that many online celebrities build their brand around. “There is science, logic… then there’s California.” That’s as generically and falsely inspirational as you can get.

However, the montage does not keep a constant rhythm. As Ingrid dives deeper and deeper into Taylor’s profile, the images start to flash more quickly (“Navajo rugs, designer shoes, artisanal cocktails, restaurants, music festivals, travel, travel, more TRAVEL--). The photos begin to overlap; the voiceover, too. Years’ worth of trips and moods and emotions flash in front of us, and we feel the rush that Ingrid is feeling.

The montage culminates with a video of Taylor’s wedding, which for Ingrid symbolizes the emotional fulfillment she craves. “It’s an incredibly intimate moment”, but one that is being shared with the world, and Ingrid wants part of it.

The scene ends with Ingrid pressing the “Follow” button. It's the most apt emotional climax, and one whose meaning can only be fully understood in today’s terms. 

 

I truly believe we will look back at Ingrid Goes West as one of the films that, through its biting satire  and deep character examinations, was able to capture the social media generation most accurately. Not only through its deeply uncomfortable story beats, or the pitch-perfect performances from both its leads, but by the way it visually transmits that we're able to engage with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The Emoji Movie wishes.

 

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Reader Comments (9)

Yes! Such a smartly penned film. It truly captures today's digital age. Also, a great feature debut for the director - I love that it's filmed almost like a horror film. And the three central performances are near perfection - Aubrey Plaza's one-two punch of Annie Wilkes and Kimmy Schmidt impressions was delicious, Elizabeth Olsen finally proved that Martha Marcy May Marlene wasn't a fluke with Taylor (a lesser actress would've made her seem like a one-note narcissist), and O'Shea Jackson Jr's made guileless goodwill look DAMN sexy.

February 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

It's a shame tt Plaza nev gotten any award recognition. She shld've at least b nom at Golden Globes comedy actress n Indie Spirits.

February 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

I love these script analysis! Keep 'em coming.

Also, Olsen should've been recognized *somewhere* for her work in this film. Pitch perfect in every scene.

February 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

BVR -- agreed. Elizabeth Olsen and OShea Jackson Jr were both amazing in this I thought.

Jorge -- thanks for covering this. I just recently saw it and was so impressed by the script and especially it's understanding of social media and aspirational but still entirely fuzzy fantasy.

February 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I found this movie incredibly disturbing and amazing...it should've gotten *a lot* more awards attention.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I loved this film. It was funny and also uncomfortable to watch at times because of how embarrassed I felt for Aubrey’s character.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuleiman

Absolutely loved this film. That KC and JoJo moment..

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermikenewq

I'll echo everyone else - I loved this film. I thought Aubrey Plaza was a one-note (albeit an enjoyable one-note) but this movie proved otherwise. She went a lot deeper here than she has before. And O'Shea Jackson Jr. was adorable.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I loved it too. we didn't give it enough attention here at TFE so thanks Jorge for covering it.

February 9, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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