Ingrid goes west
The Instagram Movie? Sort of. Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen star in pitch-black dramedy Ingrid Goes West, the zeitgeisty tale of a social media superstar and an obsessive follower. Total Film gets facetime with the stars to talk about fame, followers a
We meet Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen IRL to talk about an Insta classic.
Park City, January 2017. Total Film’s in town for the Sundance Film Festival, where Ingrid Goes West has just gone down a storm. The scalpel-sharp comedy follows Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), a young woman with mental health issues, who takes an obsessive shine to Instagram influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Heading to LA to stalk/befriend the object of her affection, Ingrid inveigles her way into Taylor’s heavily filtered life, and also befriends Batman-obsessed Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr.). It’s very much a film for right now, smartly dissecting social media culture, examining the dark and funny side beyond the likes, emojis and hashtags. It’s certain to make you re-examine your own habits next time you log in.
Taking a break from the snow outside, we’ve hunkered down in a studio on Main Street to get to know the people behind the on-screen cyphers. “It’s weird that it’s a challenge to be real,” debut director Matt Spicer muses of social media. “You think it’d be super-easy, but it’s actually hard, because I think we’re kind of programmed to project this version of ourselves, this other identity that we’ve created for ourselves.”
In terms of public perception, both Plaza and Olsen explore new territory in IGW. Plaza (who also produces) has earned raves, with some comparing her turn to something from De Niro’s heyday, and vapid Insta-icon Taylor gives Olsen a chance to do a complete 180 from the intense screen persona she’s been cultivating since 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene.
In person, the pair make for easy company, talking candidly about their relationships to fame and social media (Olsen’s official Instagram account has become more active since our chat). They have an easy rapport that is worlds away from their characters’ artificial friendship, which we discover when the parkas come off and the conversation begins…
Elizabeth olsen ‘I don’t have social media.
I don’t want to feel the pressure of creating an image of myself.’
How active are each of you on social media? ELIZABETH OLSEN: I don’t have social media. So I’m not active at all.
And why is that?
EO: I think it’d probably be a good idea for different aspects of this job, but I don’t want to be preoccupied by it, and I don’t want to feel the pressure of creating an image of myself and understanding what I would want people to see my life as. I’d just rather do whatever it is that I do, privately.
AUBREY PLAZA: My relationship with it always… I struggle with it. I don’t really like it. It kind of goes against a lot of my instincts. But sometimes I have fun with it, but I haven’t been on Facebook in a really, really long time. I do it very minimally.
Aubrey, can you talk about your role as a producer on Ingrid Goes West?
Both of you have done remarkable things to shape your own careers.
AP: Yeah. I really enjoy collaboration. I don’t like having that pressure of like: “Oh, every actor has to write their dream role for themselves, and that’s the only way it’ll happen.” Which I think… sometimes, that does work, and that’s great, too, but this movie was a very organic process. I read the script. I loved it. I met Matt [Spicer], and he assembled all of these people I’ve been wanting to work with. So I think, for me, it’s all about that collaboration and just having that organic thing leading the way.
EO: I just started working six years ago, so I think I’ve just started in the last couple of years to find my groove and how I want to make choices. And I’m enjoying what I’ve been doing the last couple of years, which is the balance between having time off Marvel – which I love doing – and finding passion projects like this one and Wind River.
Like Aubrey, I’m just starting to develop projects and be a part of things from the beginning, and pitching. That world, to me, is really fascinating, because I think there are holes in storytelling, that I think the things I’m creating help fill. And that’s exciting to me.
How did you develop the on-screen chemistry between the two of you?
EO: Well, I fell in love with Aubrey.
AP: You were actually my stalker on set. We kind of decided to do a role reversal when we were in our trailers.
EO: Yeah. I think it’s because I was initially intimidated by you, so then
I just decided to be weirder than you.
AP: And I think you succeeded. [laughs]
I would just take sneaky pictures of her getting her make-up done and then…
EO: …and then it was the screensaver on her phone for the entirety of filming.
AP: That’s right. It’s the little things that add up.
EO: Yeah. It’s also just nice to work with a female of a similar generation. I don’t really get that opportunity that often, so that felt novel to me.
AP: And it’s nice to work with cool women that are fun, and like, we are actually friends. So it’s really… it’s the best.
When you’re making a dark comedy like this, how do you know when you’re riding that line properly?
EO: I think we all understood the tone inherently in some weird way, right? AP: I think for any comedy…
EO: You play it sincerely.
AP: Yeah. You just commit to your character, and the comedy will come out of the truth of that. People that don’t understand that and go for the joke – that’s when the tone starts to get weird.
EO: But we also understood what it was that we were trying to comment on. Like, the overuse of hyperbole, for example. That kind of stuff was consistent. We knew those kinds of things, as themes almost, I guess.
How do you think wider audiences are going to react to Ingrid Goes West?
Are people going to quit Instagram?
EO: No, because I think it’s more about sharing the most extreme version of a relationship to it, as opposed to shaming.
AP: Yeah, I don’t think the message of the movie is “Instagram is bad”. I think it’s more complicated than that.
EO: Because at the same time, what it ends up showing is that your character eventually has to be the most honest, raw version of yourself, and then she gets what she always wanted out of it. So it’s actually got some weird, positive, twisted message at the end.
What would you say is the biggest disconnect between how your fans see you and how you actually live? EO: I don’t know what fans think of me. AP: I have a slight idea… [laughs] I have a slight idea of what they think of me.
EO: I guess there’s one comment that I made a joke about with a friend when I was having some dark, dark moment in my googling of myself
– as you just fucking do. And it sucks, but you do it, and it’s honest. But I remember, someone said a comment that I was a bitch because I waltzed through a door that someone was holding or something.
I was like, “What? When was that?!” [laughs] And then I was really upset that someone thought I was rude! I really try to treat everybody the way you want to be treated. But I was like, “Fuck that. That sucks! Why is that out there on a comment?” No one else read it but me. AP: It’s not even real. It’s just stupid. EO: I know. But that’s when you read it, and for half a second, you are upset, and then you’re like, “Lizzie – stop. It’s so weird that you’re even thinking like that. Just stop.” You’ve played so many characters in the public eye that people think they know who you are and what you’re like.
AP: Yeah. I think being on a television show [Parks And Recreation] for so long, for seven years, and being in people’s living rooms and playing a character like that, of course they’re going to associate it with me, and I am that character. I mean, I’m not that character, but I play that character with my body and my experiences and my sense of humour. I’m sure it feels like, you know, people think they know who I am, but they probably don’t. I don’t really know. [laughs] Have you guys ever fangirled about anything? Was there anything you were obsessed with? EO: Michelle Pfeiffer, as a little girl.
Batman Returns Michelle Pfeiffer? Or everything?
EO: Everything. I watched almost all of her movies before the age of 13, and dressed up as her as Grease 2, but like… I think it started with Batman.…
AP: One Fine Day.
EO: One Fine Day. Everything. Anything. Tequila Sunrise. Just name it. [laughs] Because I was obsessed with her.
AP: The Fabulous Baker Boys?
EO: Oh, God, don’t even get me started. AP: [deadpan voice] Oh, don’t get me started, girl.
EO: That is the sexiest way a dress has ever been unzipped.
AP: I was really obsessed with Judy Garland growing up, since I was, like, 11. So I have a lot of Wizard Of Oz stuff in my room. But I wasn’t even that obsessed with The Wizard Of Oz, but that was just the easiest thing that people associated me with, so I had a lot of that going on.
Does it irritate you that a lot of current social media stars can be famous without having any real talent?
EO: No, because it’s not about fame. If you have something that is a craft, I guess, then it’s different. Because I don’t think [Aubrey] and I are trying to get millions of followers for no reason. [laughs]
AP: No, and I hate it when people follow me. It freaks me out.
sharing’s caring Elizabeth Olsen as social media star Taylor Sloane, with Aubrey Plaza’s fangirl Ingrid; O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ingrid’s landlord Dan Pinto (bottom left).