My Old Ass


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

My Old Ass
"Park captures the web of life tensions that don’t just stop when we’re teenagers, particularly the pull of the new versus the attraction of nostalgia." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Alice on her visit to Wonderland said: “I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it.” First-time director Megan Park also takes her young protagonist on a trip of a different sort to explore this idea - only the advice Elliott (Maisy Stella) is giving to herself comes not from her current self, but the 39-year-old version (Aubrey Plaza).

The younger Elliott is about to head to college, enjoying the last few days on her family’s cranberry farm and, like most people her age, mostly concerned with starting her new life away from the place and enjoying the last few make-out sessions with her barista girlfriend (Alexandra Riviera). Things get interesting when she heads out to an island with her mates Ruthie (Maddie Ziegler) and Ro (Kerrice Brooks) for a shroom session. That’s when she has a strange encounter with the “old ass” incarnation of herself.

Although this is a smaller role for Plaza, she nails it, bringing an endearing and believable mix of cynicism and nostalgia to a character who, like most people her age, has seen the dreams her younger self had turn into a life that hasn’t exactly lived up to the billing. The younger Elliott, for her part, is pretty scandalised and the clash of hopefulness and experience provides plenty of heft, making this the sort of film that would make for a great mum and daughter cinema trip.

The older Elliott doesn’t want to contaminate her younger self but she is willing to offer a single warning: “Avoid anyone named Chad.”

This being a coming-of-age comedy, of course, Chad (Percy Hynes White) soon arrives on the scene, as a labourer on the family farm. It’s a small thing but another winning element of Park’s film is that Chad is not conventionally ‘a hunk’, Hynes White has a gangly air that feels fittingly teenage. Elliott finds herself questioning her gender identity, something that is very nicely worked by Park in terms of the teenager’s friends, who are accepting of whatever she decides. The writer/director also makes the time to flesh out the family dynamic, so that Elliott’s relationship with her father ( (Al Goulem) mother (Maria Dizzia) and brothers Spencer (Carter Trozzolo) and Max (Seth Isaac Johnson) all feel enjoyably lived in.

Park captures the web of life tensions that don’t just stop when we’re teenagers, particularly the pull of the new versus the attraction of nostalgia, something the younger Elliott suddenly encounters as news breaks on the home front. These are the sort of bread and butter issues that have long fed the young adult genre but Park brings a freshness to them, also finding time for some laugh-out-loud pop culture asides about Justin Bieber and Saorise Ronan. There’s a luminous quality to newcomer Stella and that is reflected in the use of light by the cinematographer Kristen Correll, which also feels natural and hopeful as it dapples the water in the lakeside setting or warm and cosy at night.

The writer/director finds a sweet spot in the back and forth between the older and younger Elliott, while growing older may bring a certain level of knowledge and experience, she also celebrates the joys that can be had from living in the moment.

Reviewed on: 31 May 2024
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The summer before college, bright-yet-irreverent Elliott comes face-to-face with her older self during a mushroom trip. The encounter spurs a funny and heartfelt journey of self-discovery and first love as Elliott prepares to leave her childhood home.

Director: Megan Park

Writer: Megan Park

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Maddie Ziegler, Percy Hynes White, Maisy Stella, Seth Isaac Johnson, Kerrice Brooks, Carter Trozzolo, Remington Schneider

Year: 2024

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: US

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