Sundance Film Review: My Old Ass
Sundance Film Review: My Old Ass
Director: Megan Park
Indian Paintbrush, LuckyChap Entertainment
Teen romance and coming-of-age stories have been done so many times that it can be difficult to find a fresh angle—My Old Ass offers an innovative twist on the genre.
Elliott Labrant (Maisy Stella, Nashville) is an 18-year-old queer girl enjoying the last weeks of summer at home at her family’s cranberry farm in Muskoka Lakes, Ontario before heading off to college in Toronto. Elliott and her best friends, Ruthie (Maddie Ziegler, Fitting In) and Ro (Kerrice Brooks, The Prom) go camping and decide to trip out on mushrooms, which has the unexpected effect of bringing Elliott face to face with herself at age 39 (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation, Emily the Criminal).
This surprising development throws Elliott for a loop until she decides to have some fun with the more mature version of herself, wondering about the future and asking “Hey, can I touch my old ass?” Older Elliott doesn’t want to say too much for fear of messing things up, though she does give Elliott two important pieces of advice: spend more time with her family, and stay far away from anyone named Chad. The next morning, Elliott shakes off the lingering effects of the mushrooms and writes the whole thing off as a hallucination until she meets a friendly boy named Chad (Percy Hynes-White, Wednesday) and discovers a new contact in her cell phone under the name “My Old Ass.” When Elliott texts the number, she discovers that her 39-year-old self is on the other end and is still very adamant about staying away from Chad. As the summer continues, the strange long distance friendship continues, and Elliott makes real headway in following her own advice about bonding with her family, though she finds it increasingly difficult to avoid the increasingly intriguing boy.
Writer and director Megan Park made a big impression with the school shooting drama The Fallout in 2021, and it’s fun to see her put her considerable skill to work on decidedly lighter fare. My Old Ass is brisk, funny and irresistibly charming with appealing characters, witty and quotable dialogue and gorgeous, natural scenery. The off-the-wall nature of the premise is easy enough to go with, though the stoner jokes are hit and miss. The choice to make a mainstream teen romance about a queer person discovering new aspects of their sexuality is daring and interesting and on its own is enough to make the film standout. While the more dramatic elements in the last third feel just a little rushed, there’s enough heart to make it work.
Stella is a charismatic and magnetic young actress, and she capably carries the film even when she doesn’t have Plaza’s powerhouse presence to lean on. Elliott’s bratty, self-centered personality is deliberately designed to be just infuriating enough for the audience to need to see her grow as a person yet likable and relatable enough to root for her to do so. Hynes-White is a lanky, unlikely heartthrob who is so utterly and sincerely appealing that it’s not at all difficult to see why anyone would find it hard to keep the promise to stay away from Chad, and this could be a breakout performance for him. It’s no surprise that the very best moments come from Plaza, whose comedic and dramatic talents shine.
My Old Ass is a charmer that is definitely aimed at young people, though there’s enough warmth and nostalgia to play as well to those 39 and above as it does to teens. It’s got “future cult classic” written all over it, and it’s another win for the immensely talented Megan Park. –Patrick Gibbs