INGRID GOES WEST is not only my favorite film from this year’s Sundance, it is also the movie I can’t stop thinking about weeks after leaving Park City. Directed and co-written by Matt Spicer, INGRID focuses on our social media-obsessed culture, where everyone’s lives are carefully curated to look perfect. But as the cautionary tale shows, the filtered images don’t quite translate into real life. Being “Insta-famous” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and unfortunately Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) has to learn this the hard way after she moves to Los Angeles to be like her Instagram idol, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). I wasn’t the only one that loved the film. I have seen it on many top ten lists, and INGRID also received a rapturous reception from the audience at the Sundance premiere. I had the chance to sit down with Matt Spicer, and actors Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. to discuss their time at Sundance, thoughts on social media, and some of their pop culture obsessions.
It’s always interesting to talk to filmmakers about the difference between Sundance crowds and regular movie goers, “I think, in a great way, Sundance is receptive to odd and quirky and experimental and challenging ways of telling a story or tone even. Some Festivals aremore curated to a wider audience in a massive P&A sort of way. That’s why I love Sundance specifically… people come to see who’s pushing boundaries.” Olsen said. Plaza was surprised by all of the laughter her other film at Sundance, THE LITTLE HOURS, received, “The tone is so specific and so weird. I was really wondering if people were going to get it, but people were in there right away. I think that’s why Sundance audiences are the best… because they are willing to go on the ride.”
Based on the content of the film, when the credits started to roll I felt weird even posting my thoughts on social media. After watching such a thought-provoking story of the highs and lows of living life from filter to filter, it seemed gross to then post my thoughts on social media (and even weirder when I saw fans not hesitating to swarm the stars for selfies). However, during the post-film Q&A, I was surprised to hear Matt Spicer admit how much he actually enjoys Instagram. Though the film did change his perspective on when to post online, “I used to post more than I do now. It made me think more about why I am posting. What am I hoping to get out of this? If the answer wasn’t something that I liked, I wouldn’t do it… I wish I was a little braver to share more of my honest self on social media. I always admire people who are able to be real on social media and I find that to be a challenge. It’s weird that’s a challenge because I think we are programmed to project a version of ourselves, another identity for ourselves.”
Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen have a different relationship with social media. When asked about her “online presence” (showbiz speak), Olsen said, “I’m not active at all…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 would rather do what I do privately.” Plaza, on the other hand, seems to have a more complicated relationship with her public online presence, “I struggle with it. I don’t particularly like it because it goes against a lot of my instincts, but sometimes I have fun with it.”
Although the script was a smart, wickedly hilarious comment on our social media-obsessed culture, INGRID GOES WEST would be nothing without a fantastic cast, and Aubrey Plaza gives the performance of her career. She puts everything she has into this tortured character, whose mental and emotional breakdowns shows enable her to show her more vulnerable side. The whole film revolves around the audience rooting for Ingrid, no matter what ridiculous situation she has gotten herself into; Plaza’s inherent charisma made Ingrid likable even when she was at her worst. I am also a huge fan of Elizabeth Olsen, having seen all of her films so far. Her role in INGRID is one of my favorites as she plays Insta-star, Taylor Sloane, with a roll-your-eyes pretentiousness I’m sure you will recognize from your own timeline. We so often get to see Olsen’s sense of humor in television interviews, but now we finally got to see that in a film.
Along with the performances, perhaps the most striking element of the film is the chemistry between Olsen and Plaza. The audience has to to believe Ingrid and Taylor’s close relationship on-screen, and based on the time I spent with the actresses in the interview room and hearing them talk about first meeting each other, it really does seem they developed a friendship in real life. In a bit of a role reversal, Olsen jokes about stalking Plaza and being awkward around her when they first met, “I fell in love with Aubrey… [to Plaza] I think it’s because I was intimidated by you and so I decided to just be weird around you,” Olsen said. Apparently, Plaza also took “sneaky pictures” of Olsen on-set, which inevitably became the screensaver on her phone during filming. Art mimicking life.
Along with the heady moments of the film, some of the more entertaining aspects were its pop culture references. Of course my attention was drawn to a poster of Leonardo DiCaprio in Ingrid’s bedroom; definitely one I had in my bedroom as a teen. I asked Plaza if she had a hand in the set design, “No, I didn’t really. Our production design is just killer and really understood the character.” When asked about their own pop culture “obsessions” Olsen admitted she fangirl’ed over Michelle Pfeiffer when she was a little girl, “I watched almost all of her movies before the age of 13. I dressed up as her in GREASE 2, but I think it started with BATMAN. ONE FINE DAY, TEQUILA SUNRISE… don’t even get me started on FABULOUS BAKER BOYS.”
Speaking of BATMAN, O’Shea Jackson Jr. also had fun with the film’s set design/wardrobe, when he was given a BATMAN FOREVER varsity jacket (which he also wore to Sundance as seen in the above pic). “They gave me an actual crew jacket from BATMAN FOREVER. They gave it to me as a gift after the movie,” Jackson disclosed. Spicer joked, “We got it off of e-Bay for $200; it was the most expensive item of clothing on the whole movie.” But don’t let the jacket fool you; Jackson doesn’t want to be a hero like Batman. He wants to be a villain, “It’s always been a dream of mine to be Venom from SPIDER-MAN. I always wanted to be the big bulky Eddie Brock with the fangs. I think my smile is more a malicious smile. It can either be good or evil. I’ve always wanted to be a bad guy.”
We also received some intel on Spicer’s next big budget project in the works at Disney, “My writing partner and I are writing the new ROCKETEER movie for Disney. I feel really excited to do it because it’s totally uncharted territory for me in terms of writing. It isn’t a complete reboot, but is set ten years after the original movie. There’s a new cast of characters, but we do explain where the old characters are and maybe you see them and maybe you don’t. It’s in the beginning of the Cold War and atomic age. It’s such a good era, especially in Los Angeles.”
With multiple movies at Sundance this year from Plaza and Olsen, I expect we will have even more smart, funny movies to look forward to in the years to come. The cast and crew are obviously game for using their talents and clout to help get smaller movies made. For example, Olsen compared her work in Marvel to that on a smaller budget film like INGRID GOES WEST, “I’m enjoying what I’ve been doing the last couple of years, which is the balance between having time off with Marvel, which I love doing, and finding passion projects like [INGRID GOES WEST] and WIND RIVER. Like Aubrey, I have just started to develop projects and be a part of things from the beginning.” Here’s to hoping we will see what projects they have up their sleeves at next year’s Festival!
Get your likes, upvotes, and favorites in now because once you see INGRID GOES WEST, you may think twice about your social media presence. I know I did!