My Old Ass (2024)

My Old Ass Review

My Old Ass

Megan Park’s funny second movie and heartfelt film is also a play with the idea of going back to your past.

It does take some time to fall for 18-year-old Elliott in “My Old Ass.” Played by Maisy Stella, she’s young and selfish so set on leaving her small-town cranberry-farming family behind for college in the big city that she’s kind of mean to everyone around her (particularly said family). Maybe not so much for young adult audiences. This sweetly wise coming-of-age comedy is by Canadian actor-turned-auteur Megan Park whose SXSW-winning debut “The Fallout” was designed for them, though adults may have less patience for how cavalierly Stella’s impulsive character takes what are arguably her best years.

Don’t worry, the movie is good and Elliott will grow on you. It helps that being initially off-putting is kind of the whole point of Park’s second feature as writer-director, which has a neat trick up its sleeve after terrific SXSW winner “The Fallout.” The magic trick comes early: Elliott and her two besties (Maddie Ziegler and Kerrice Brooks) take a boat to an island in the middle of a lake to camp out and do shrooms. While high, Elliott is visited by her 39-year-old self (Aubrey Plaza), whom she peppers with insults, calling her “middle-aged” and ragging on how little they resemble one another (they don’t; those jokes help smooth over any potential casting distraction).

For a while there Plaza would pretty much only play annoyed-looking young women; once she hit her comedic stride, so did more complex roles (“White Lotus,” etc.). Here she isn’t on-screen as the title character long but we buy tiredness from us-believing-nearly-40-Elliott. She gets wistful around herself at such a tender age, deflecting questions about how life’s been (this is not exactly a time-travel movie, but “we don’t know how this works,” she says, and neither party wants to create a paradox). But teenage Elliott wants some tips.

“Can you avoid anyone named Chad?” Plaza’s character snarks. Now, she could be hallucinating; in fact, most of this may be in her head. When Elliott wakes up the next morning, girl doesn’t know what to think. Then she meets an irresistibly charming stranger (Percy Hynes White) named you guessed it: Chad. At which point Elliott becomes desperate for advice and finds her future number stored in her phone reaching out starts a supernatural (though refreshingly intuitive) old-ass conversation.

Respect your parents more, she suggests. Spend quality time with your brothers. Slow down and appreciate each moment (even the bumps), ’cause before you know it time flies by faster than ever. It’s better advice than any traditional elder might give because older Elliott can remember where she messed up back then and alter her responses accordingly

This brings us back around to Chad, who doesn’t seem like the type to hurt her. He’s tall and gangly, with long hair and a charmingly dorky energy about him. However, the back-and-forth between young and old Elliott is indeed happening, and as much of a rebel as she may be, Elliott has every reason to trust her older self’s “avoid Chad” directive. Not only that, but she identifies as gay and has been fooling around with a local bartender (Alexandra River). But tell a teenager not to do something and they’ll probably do it anyway this tendency drives most of the film’s tension.

In a way, “My Old Ass” could function as Park’s retroactive YA movie for herself (which is why it features a Justin Bieber cover sure to thrill LGBT Beliebers), but it also deserves credit for being honest about adolescent yearning, sexual-identity confusion and all the other stuff that sends parents into fits. (The MPA ratings board was built for parents in search of family-appropriate fare; this movie will have to change or censor its title before release if it wants an R rating.)

Remember, Park got her start on ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which spoke directly to teens about touchy subjects like pregnancy. Series creator Brenda Hampton clearly rubbed off on Park, whose respectfully boundary-pushing YA comedy is more instructive than most PG-13 films not in spite of its casual profanity or drug use or wildly irresponsible mishandling of that motorboat (in ways that kill kids every year) but because of them. Young people don’t think like that; they act like they’re immortal. If anything, the movie could have gone further.

Being closer in age to Plaza’s character allows Park to smuggle life-learned insights into “My Old Ass,” though it speaks volumes that the script is funny first, poignant second and only a little patronizing. Early on, Elliott announces that she can’t wait for her life to begin when she gets to Toronto (which Park shows by having her childhood friends wince at the idea, since they have no intention of leaving). She’s itching to escape the family cranberry business, but what Park really captures is the nostalgia of those last lazy days at home surrounded by loved ones.

The landscapes alone will make you weep. You’ll probably cry eventually. It’s that kind of movie, with a twist that makes you question which genre you’ve been watching all along. “This isn’t the last time you get exactly what you want and realize it isn’t what you wanted,” explains elder Elliott at one point she may have spent more time on this earth, but she doesn’t know everything. In fact, this may be the best surprise in Park’s film: We old folks still have something to learn from kids like her.

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