Aubrey Plaza getting ready for My Old Ass (photo by George Pimentel/Shutterstock for Sundance)
By Bailey Pennick
“Life can be hard and shitty sometimes,” says writer-director Megan Park right after the credits roll on the premiere of her sophomore film, My Old Ass. “I wanted to just really have an escape [from that] with this film.” From the lengthy standing ovation by the sold-out Eccles crowd at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, it’s pretty clear that Park isn’t the only one looking for that dive into something joyful.
Right from the start, there’s a lightness and ease to the film. Elliott (Maisy Stella) is hanging out with her friends and talking about how excited she is to move to the city and away from her idyllic hometown of Muskoka Lakes, Ontario. Brimming with the excitement of new horizons, young Elliott decides not to go home for dinner or answer her mom’s calls, thus missing a birthday cake surprise waiting for her. Instead, she hooks up with another girl on the island, and does mushrooms with her best friends in the woods. Once she’s sufficiently high, Elliott comes face-to-face with, well, her own face. But it’s older (Aubrey Plaza) and it drops a lot of hints about a slightly strange future world where things like fish don’t exist anymore.
In the light of day, young Elliott realizes that her rip in the space/time continuum actually happened, once she sees a phone number she doesn’t recognize under the name “My Old Ass.” Suddenly, older Elliot is texting a lot of demands to young Elliott during these last few weeks where she’s still a kid: Spend time with your brothers, talk to mom, and avoid Chad (Percy Hynes White).
While young Elliott goes along with her first few points, it becomes impossible for her to avoid the charming summer laborer on her family’s cranberry farm. Suddenly this spacey time-travelish movie shifts to a summer love story that feels so natural, you find yourself wondering why Plaza’s version of Elliott thinks he’s a bad idea. White and Stella’s chemistry is instant; both characters feeling completely lived-in.
To paraphrase almost everyone from the cast who joined Park onstage, there was just such a good vibe on set. The dialogue and mannerisms of the young cast are expertly reflected within their characters, adding to the authenticity that did not go unnoticed by the Festival crowd. One young woman stood up and praised Park’s portrayal of “authentic young queerness.”
My Old Ass also nails that emotionally fraught push and pull between wanting your independence to start immediately and wanting to stay a kid forever. The film is drenched in the warm glow of those last days of summer before school starts again — each hour of sunlight slipping through your fingers as you try to live in that blissful limbo before going back to real life.
But as young Elliott tries to navigate her future with her texting buddy, it becomes clear that the Old Ass Elliott is the one who needs the advice for breaking out of limbo.
To see more of the magic from the 2024 Festival, click here.