On a rainy afternoon last month, Elizabeth Olsen apologized profusely for pushing back by more than an hour a luncheon interview at a restaurant in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I really hate being late.” The 22-year-old actress — she’s the younger sister of the child stars turned clothing designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen — had the most fashionable of excuses for the delay: Karl Lagerfeld. The Chanel designer had been shooting her for a coffee table book, and the photo session had gone long. She modeled an oversize classic Chanel tweed jacket for him. “I didn’t get to keep it,” she said, laughing as she pointed to her own nondescript sweater and T-shirt.
She may have been tardy for the interview, but Ms. Olsen, nicknamed Lizzie, is running way ahead of schedule on her career. She has starred in five movies, all independent films, in little more than a year, with the first release, “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” due on Friday. It is an unsettling psychological drama in which Ms. Olsen plays the tricky role of an emotionally troubled young woman who, after a sojourn as a cult member on a remote farm in the Catskills, takes refuge with her older sister and brother-in-law at their upscale, lakeside vacation house.
Traumatized by chilling memories from her past and ill at ease in her present, Martha is a woman on the verge, unable to distinguish between what is real and what is in her head, and equally unable to behave appropriately. She crawls into bed with her sister and brother-in-law while they’re making love and skinny-dips in the lake in broad daylight, seemingly unable to comprehend why either action would cause offense.
The movie was a standout at last winter’s Sundance Film Festival, and Ms. Olsen, who also starred in a second film at the festival, “Silent House” (an art-house horror film scheduled for 2012), impressed critics and industry insiders alike, and was quickly tagged the “it girl” of the festival.
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