W MAGAZINE – id-way through Ingrid Goes West, the so-called “Instagram” movie that premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will finally hit theaters on Friday, Aubrey Plaza, mid-carpool karaoke—and to K-Ci & JoJo, no less—shoots a glance at Elizabeth Olsen that sticks with you long past the credits. It’s a look of equal parts envy, lust, desperation, and infatuation—in a word, it’s unhinged. And it’s what makes Ingrid Goes West one of the summer’s most captivating movies.
In the film, Plaza plays the titular Ingrid, a fragile and arguably deranged twenty-something who finds her calling after the death of her mother. In her copious free time she turns to Instagram to pass the hours, stumbling upon what will soon become an all-encompassing obsession: Olsen’s Taylor Sloane, a seemingly perfect, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, California-living, avocado toast-loving Instagram star. And so Ingrid goes West, to meet Taylor and get a piece of that social media bliss for herself. As you might guess, hijinks ensue—both slapstick for the Millennial set (at one point Plaza attempts to diffuse an awkward situation by screaming “I brought rosé!”, and it works) and unexpectedly dark (blackmail; attempted murder).
The relationship between Ingrid and Taylor is a tenuous one, powered by iPhone battery life and Valencia filters that, like Ingrid’s gaze, will leave you feeling uneasy. Plaza and Olsen IRL, however, is another story. Nine months after the film’s Sundance debut, and countless photo ops (including one particularly ingenious red carpet ‘who wore it better’ moment), late night interviews, and yes, Instagram posts, the pair has an easy rapport, fueled by a similarly quiet wit and general affection for their joint project. Sitting together on a secluded bench just outside a bustling photo studio, the pair frequently broke off a conversation about the film for quick asides and playful bickering among themselves (and, no, Plaza does not hate Girls Trip). It was all-too-easy to just sit back and passively observe, à la Ingrid scrolling through Taylor’s feed—albeit, hopefully in a much less creepy fashion. Here, the pair talks about their new film, embracing social media, and the specificity of Los Angeles vocal fry.
How did you first find this project?
Aubrey Plaza: I was sent the script through my agent. He got his hands on it really fast, and I kind of knew the director and writer [Matt Spicer] socially, so I reached out to him on my own and got together with him. I was just very aggressive about it. I just loved the script. It’s a beautifully written script. It’s very specific, and I thought it was so rare to have a story from one character’s perspective. I liked the subject matter, also, and thought it was really timely and a really beautiful human story, but also a great commentary on what’s happening right now with social media and society.
Elizabeth Olsen: I had a friend who mentioned [the movie] to me and said, “There is this movie called Ingrid Goes West and if you hear about it, I think it’s really funny and I said that you’d be great for it.’ And then three months later, it came in with a pile of other scripts to my agent and manager, and they were like, “We’ll read this.” And I was like, “I’m going to read it too!” Then I read it and was like, “I’m going to do it!” I don’t know if everyone who read it would get the humor until they saw it, but I got it. I was like, “This is brilliant.” My favorite movies growing up were weird films that were a little off, like Heathers or Death Becomes Her or Return to Oz.
AP: It does have an old school, cult classic vibe to it.
EO: It has a dark, cult classic-y feel, and that’s why I loved it.
Had you met before filming?
EO: No. Actually—yes, once.
AP: In a shop. The General Store.
EO: The Mohalk General Store in Silver Lake, and you were on crutches.
AP: I was just shopping with my friends.
EO: And I knew one of your friends, and we all met. Then that was it. But that was a long time ago.
AP: I guess we both have the same taste.
EO: Maybe. I was in there first.
Aubrey, were there any fictional characters that you looked to to help you tap into the mind of Ingrid?
AP. There were definitely movies that we thought of, at least tonally. [Martin Scorsese’s] King of Comedy was a big one; just the idea of having that person who is obsession-worthy. But there weren’t any specifics characters.
Elizabeth, in the film your character is a big Instagram influencer, and I read that director Matt Spicer made a fake Instagram account for you to help get into the mindset of a social media star.
EO: He did. The password was like, ‘I love the beach,’ or something stupid. He had a list of influencers he wanted me to follow, so that was like my homework. He also wanted me to practice taking photos and I was like, ‘But I’m so bad at taking photos.’ But I took a picture of a dog in my backyard, and a sign that said “Beautiful Inside.” I didn’t know what I was doing. Thank God I didn’t have to take any pictures for the movie because I am really bad at taking photos.
And you are both pretty new to Instagram yourselves [Elizabeth started using her account in February, while Aubrey recently made hers public]. Have you embraced it more now after doing this film?
AP: I always felt a little pressure about [going public], especially since I had gotten off Twitter, so I didn’t have any social media presence. But then I was really excited about this movie and another movie that I had come out this summer [ The Little Hours, which is currently in theaters], so I was just excited about having a way to share that with people. So I was like, I’m just going to dive in.
EO: It’s kind of funny now. I kind of enjoy it.
AP: I did a fun little video on my vacation.
EO: You did a Story?
AP: No, I didn’t do a Story. I haven’t ever done a Story.
EO: Oh, the Big Little Lies video. That was funny.
AP: But I’m not as judgmental about it. I’m like, ‘Oh, whatever.’
Is there anyone in particular that you like to follow?
A.P.: I mostly just follow all of my friends. Who is really good at Instagram? I don’t know.
EO: I don’t know either. My friend Jake is really good at Instagram.
A.P.: Official Sean Penn is really funny to me. Those funny, comedy ones are always good.
EO: Danny Pellegrino, do you ever follow him? He’s funny.
AP: And John Early. He’s always doing these, like, dances.
EO: We went to school together. He was in the grade above me.
AP: I did not know that. I’ve never met him, I just think he’s funny.
You shot the movie in Los Angeles, and the film has a very specific Los Angeles vibe to it. What was it like shooting there?
EO: I like filming on location; it’s hard for me to work where I live. You obviously have had so much experience working where you live. I’m assuming with Parks & Rec?
AP: Yeah, but it’s different on a movie. With TV, it’s like, ‘This is my job, I’m going to work.’ For this movie [shooting in LA] made sense, and it was fun to go to Venice, because I don’t ever go to Venice, or Joshua Tree and other places like that which I never want to go to.
E.O.: Joshua Tree was really fun. Matt, Aubrey, and I shared a home. He never reviewed or rated me, and I’m trying to get an Airbnb right now and I feel like me having points or something would help me get a place. Then I got nervous because I thought we may have left the house dirty, but we didn’t. We were really respectful.
AP: We definitely borrowed some of his hats, but I think we put them back.
EO: We did. And I think he told us there was a hat closet in his opening note.
AP: And ponchos.
E.O.: But I really want my rating.
Speaking of Los Angeles—Elizabeth, the very particular Valley Girl-esque cadence of your voice as Taylor is a real highlight of the film. Did you pull inspiration from anyone in particular?
EO: I just grew up in LA and the only reason I don’t talk like that is because I went to drama school, probably. My mother has a high-pitched voice and I feel like you take on the cadence of people around you. I just think what is really funny about people in LA is that they talk like they are running out of breath.
AP: Even your laugh was different.
EO: I know, but then I was laughing like that with my friends. I was like, ‘Why am I doing that?’
How long was the shoot altogether?
EO: Like, a week.
AP: Yeah, seven days. No, it was twenty-four days total.
EO: So nuts.
Did that kind of quick, intense schedule affect your relationship? It sounds almost like a summer camp, secluded bubble type of experience.
EO: Aubrey never had a moment off, because the whole movie is her. I had a lot of time to go have my normal life and come back.
AP: I feel like when we were on set, we were in really uncomfortable situations at times. Our toilets were in our chairs.
EO: Like, if you moved this bench up, there would be a toilet under there. The toilets smelled so bad.
AP: But it was good. It helped us band together.
EO: Like little, dirty children.
Is there anything in particular that you are obsessed with right now in your own life?
EO: My friends are very obsessed with this movie, which is cool. They all went to the premiere in LA. And I heard Girls Trip was fantastic.
AP: Oh, I want to see that.
E.O.: My friend Clay saw it and was obsessed with it. Then I said, ‘What’s better, Ingrid Goes West or Girls Trip?’ And he said, ‘Honestly, Lizzie, they are on the same level.’
EO: That movie was a huge success; that’s a compliment.
EO: Take it as a compliment. I think it got 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. People are obsessed with Girls Trip.