In Ingrid Goes West, Aubrey Plaza brilliantly embodies the titular character, a social media-obsessed 20-something whose only means of connecting with people is through her smartphone. As Ingrid discovers an Instagram “influencer” named Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), her obsession takes her all the way to Los Angeles, making for a Single White Female for a new generation.
Cut Print Film sat down with two of the film’s stars, Pom Klementieff (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods), discussing everything from social anxieties, the importance of visibility, to the underrated value of authentic human connection in the age of social media.
Magnussen plays Nicky, Taylor’s obnoxious meathead brother, while Klementieff is Harley Chung, an uber cool Insta-famous model that Taylor herself aspires to be. Words with the actors below.
Cut Print Film: Will you guys talk about how you came on board to this project?
Pom Klementieff: My agent set me up with the director, Matt Spicer, on Skype. So I had a conversation on Skype with him. A few days before shooting, he said, “Hey! Are you ready?” And so yeah, that was it! [laughs]
Billy Magnussen: Nailed it.
CPF: Technology, huh?
Klementieff: I was shooting in Atlanta [for] Guardians of the Galaxy.
CPF: Oh, that little movie.
Klementieff: [laughs] Yeah.
Magnussen: Just that little one.
CPF: What about you, Billy?
Magnussen: I read the script! My agents sent it to me. I really, really enjoyed it because it’s a beautiful commentary, or a reflective mirror on society now. I just wanted to be involved with it no matter what, actually. Then I just had a meeting with Matt and we were cool.
CPF: Can you talk about your own relationships to social media?
Klementieff: I love Instagram. Twitter, I love it less. I don’t know, for me, I use [Instagram] as a gallery of pictures that I like, or it’s self-promotion. So sometimes, it’s a little bit vain and I don’t like it. But I enjoy it, too.
Magnussen: It’s a love-hate relationship.
Klementieff: Yeah, exactly! You know, I follow people that inspire me and I try to unfollow people that are too into themselves or don’t post interesting or funny stuff. I like when it’s entertaining.
Magnussen: I understand that it’s a necessarily evil. It has become such a marketing tool for places not to spend money. And they use the people in their projects to exploit it that way without spending money. But at the same time, I think it connects people through vast distances and [with] information, I really believe that. But I think it can also be an evil thing of spreading falseness a lot and making people literally turn away from [those] around them to focus on themselves. They become jealous, become anti-social, and they’re worried about their device rather than the community around them. And it’s okay to have lulls in conversation; we forgot that that happens.
CPF: It’s also interesting how this film is coming out this year, considering our politics and its relationship with social media.
Magnussen: That’s what I’ve been trying to say! This is my problem. This is why I love this film! This is really why I love this film. It’s a commentary. Our President became a President because of fucking Twitter. Not because of the man of he is, but because of a fucking tweet. That is bullshit because you can falsely say anything that you want and people will take it and feed on it. The truth is, how about you spend time with a human being and really get to know who they are?
CPF: I’m glad we’re on the same page.
Magnussen: Yes, dude! I am so much on the same fucking page. This literally is the most important thing. I think about this. This film is a reflective mirror to society right now.
CPF: Why do you think our generation is so obsessive about things like social media?
Magnussen: Because! Because they have been distracted from a young age. Because being a human is tough. It’s hard. It really is. All the time. Everyone has social anxieties, but I can pretend I have I don’t have any if I go like this [puts his phone up to his face], “I’m sorry, I’m on my thing.” They don’t have to deal with situations. It’s safer. It’s okay to fail, but I think we’re scared. This generation is scared to actually interact with people and feel awkward and feel… whatever. They can just falsely live their life through this fucking bullshit rather than connect with people around them. And it freaks me out, man! It really freaks me out.
I go to my buddies in Wyoming all the time and it’s the best time because there’s no Internet service…
Klementieff: Oh, that’s great! When you ride horses?
Magnussen: When I ride horses, man.
Klementieff: Oh shit, I wanna go there.
Magnussen: Come, come! But [we] forget, it’s okay to sit around and not talk with your buds [and just] hang out with them. It’s okay! It’s not weird.
Klementieff: Yeah. Now, it happens so many times that you’re with your friends and everybody’s on their phone! It’s so crazy. It’s so sad.
CPF: Go to any restaurant, see any family, and they’re usually all staring down at their own screens.
Klementieff: [laughs] Yeah!
Magnussen: Or what about just taking in the sunset? When was the last time we actually did that?
CPF: People are likely Instagramming them.
Magnussen: Dude, it’s so crazy. It hurts, it hurts. I feel that I’m a very open person, and very talkative. I like getting to know people. I really like it. I want to. When someone’s scared – and it’s okay to be scared, I’m a loud person to talk to – but that they deflect it… People are scared to be themselves.
CPF: Billy, your character, Nicky, he’s quite insufferable and overwhelming. However, when it comes down to it, his main motivation is protecting his sister.
Magnussen: Is he the bad guy? That’s the question. Is he the fucking bad guy?
CPF: Every time you come on screen, it pierces through the atmosphere and shakes everyone up.
Klementieff: [laughs] Yeah!
Magnussen: So obnoxious.
CPF: Can you tell me about shaping that character?
Magnussen: When we were talking about it, he’s the guy who was literally in France, and he goes to Ibiza, goes to the fucking Coachellas and whatever.
Klementieff: We know guys like that!
Billy: We know guys like that. I do not do that shit. I do not do that shit, I wanna say that. I go to sleep at 11, you know? But Matt Spicer gave me the freedom to go out there and go a little hog wild with the character and just be fucking obnoxious. [laughs] And it was an interesting character study in that sense. I’m already a hyper guy, I got that part down, but the lack of consideration for other people was what Nicky was. I imagined that he came from a well-off family who never told him no. Or if something happened at school, they yelled at the teacher rather than the child.
CPF: That scene where he’s telling that story about coming back from Paris after meeting the Chinese businessman is particularly memorable because of his ignorance. Can you talk about what it was like, filming that scene?
Magnussen: You know what’s funny, actually, while I was shooting it – again, I know, I’m working with such talented people, such awesome people. [At the time,] Billy was feeling like, “God, I’m being so mean and socially an asshole.” An asshole. I felt them [thinking], “I can’t believe you just fucking did that.” And weirdly, it helped influence me [in thinking], “Oh, I’m going the right way [because] I’m making them feel really awkward about it.” So yes, it was tough doing it at the time. It was like, “This is not what I want, but if I’m doing it for this character, commit to it.”
Klementieff: Yeah, everyone gets offended nowadays. But I get it. It’s not the funniest joke, especially when we’re Asian or part Asian like me, you’re like, “Really, again? This joke?” But it’s part of the character – it’s why he’s so disgusting and funny, in a way. It makes him flawed too, so it works, I think.
CPF: Pom, your character Harley embodies that female role model that many young girls seemingly aspire to be. Especially more so now with Instagram and the access we have to each other.
Klementieff: Yeah! She’s this kind of girl that gets paid to post stuff on social media, and she makes a living out of that, which is funny. A lot of people do that. She’s that “it” girl. The really annoying girl that tags all the brands in her posts and is happy all the time. She goes to all the cool places.
Magnussen: Do you think your character is happy? I’m actually curious.
Klementieff: She’s #grateful. [laughs]
CPF: It’s always so satisfying to see when Asian actors kill it. That visibility means a lot. What does that mean for you guys?
Klementieff: I remember years ago, I would watch movies with superheroes. The X-Men movies, for example. I was like, “Yes! Yes!” Kind of like, [seeing] mixed race and not just white [characters], it was cool. I loved it in that way. I love Marvel movies and superhero movies because I had a connection with that, with people who are different and fight evil all together.
It’s great what’s happening. There’s more and more diversity and it’s really cool. I love it, and I love to be a part of it.
Ingrid Goes West heads to theaters in Los Angeles and New York this Friday, August 11, and everywhere else on August 25.