Social media can be a very scary place. That's the driving message of Ingrid Goes West, a dark comedy-drama directed by Matt Spicer about a mentally unstable young woman in Pennsylvania named Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) who becomes obsessed with Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a social media "influencer" living the good life in sunny L.A.
The movie opens in hilarious fashion: Ingrid likes every photo from a wedding on her feed while sitting alone in her car, conveniently parked right outside the venue. She storms in, guns blazing, and fires pepper spray in the bride's face for not inviting her. We only realize later that Ingrid doesn't in fact know the bride—she only thinks she does because they had a brief exchange via Instagram.
Ingrid is then briefly institutionalized, only to repeat the same stalker behavior when she discovers Taylor in a fashion magazine spread. She follows her on IG, Taylor follows back, and Ingrid promptly books it to the west coast to befriend her, emptying her inheritance to do so. Perhaps unsurprisingly, her grand plan works (chalk it up to the shallowness of social media), but the threat of Taylor finding out the truth looms strong.
Here, Plaza and Olsen get candid about the dangers of social media and misconceptions about life in L.A.
Both of you are relatively new to social media. What attracted you to the script?
Aubrey Plaza: I loved the script. [Matt] Spicer and I wanted Lizzie to be Taylor so badly, but we never thought she would do it. We always thought of that part as Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy—to have a character in a movie that's obsession-worthy is a really tricky thing, because not everyone is worth being obsessed with. Seriously! And the moment you see her onscreen, you're like, "I want to be her."
Elizabeth Olsen: I wanted to do a comedy—even though this is a very dark comedy. I'm fascinated by social media culture and its effects on society. I also thought it was ironic in my own mind to do the movie because I'm not on it [social media] myself.
Was that a conscious choice?
EO: I understand how it would benefit me in a lot of ways from a business point of view, but even from doing research for this, I became really obsessed with Instagram, and I don't want that in my life. I screen shot stuff all day long and send it to a group text with my best friends. That's more fun for me to share.
And Aubrey, you recently joined Instagram. What prompted that decision?
AP: I definitely got really into Instagram on set, because I have a phone in my hand in almost every scene, and I was really on Instagram that whole time. Sometimes I would spiral and zone out and look at stuff that I would never look at normally.
What kind of stuff?
AP: People I don't know... beautiful people.
EO: I followed this girl named @jessiecave who makes cartoon drawings of women having conversations, and there's another account called @theawkwardfrogs, which is similar, but instead of women, they're frogs. For Christmas this year, I went through all of my screen shots and got them printed and gave them out as presents.
AP: I love that! That's such a good idea. I'm into @tasteofstreep, which is basically pictures of a miniature Meryl Streep on different plates of food. Don't get me wrong: I like Meryl Streep, but it's a celebration of her in the weirdest way. The fact that someone takes the time to make these different images is very strange to me, but I like it.
Now that you've dabbled in Instagram, do you think that people use it to determine their self-worth?
EO: I think "likes" are a chemical response in the brain, like a reward system.
AP: It's like little rabbits hitting a button to get a nugget.
Both of you live in L.A. Was this movie an accurate portrayal of life there?
EO: I feel very protective over L.A. because I'm fourth generation, but at the same time, it's hilarious to laugh at. I grew up in the Valley—I was not the moved-to-Venice-but-have-a-place-in-Joshua-Tree kid. Abbott Kinney is how I used to feel about Brooklyn. I never felt cool enough to be there.
AP: It doesn't even feel mean-spirited, it's more of a celebration of all of those weird things about it.
How involved did you get with the wardrobe? That boho aesthetic is a huge part of blogger culture.
EO: The fashion was important. It was a lot of vintage and boutiques in the area. But really, it's not about the clothes —it's about the people who wear them.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.