This review is based on a screening at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. My Old Ass does not yet have a release date, but Amazon MGM Studios is in final negotiations to distribute, per Variety.
Despite something of a high-concept premise involving [checks notes] shroom-induced time-traveling, nothing in My Old Ass is overly complicated – in fact, with its life lessons, hilarious bits, and steady character growth, it hits just about every beat you expect from a coming-of-age dramedy. If that description, however, makes you think My Old Ass is too rote or by-the-numbers to seek out, think again. Writer/director Megan Park takes what could merely be a serviceable crowd-pleaser and turns it into something more affecting thanks to a confident, sincere script and what’s hopefully a star-making turn from Maisy Stella, alongside a particularly charming Aubrey Plaza. It’s such a joy to watch that the only real shame is that a few characters on the sidelines don’t have more of a chance to shine. But it’s also a testament to the lovely little world Park built that I found myself eager to stay there longer.
The aforementioned premise alone is relatable enough: Stella plays Elliott, an 18-year-old itching to leave her family’s Canadian farm for college – the kind of teenager who chooses to trip balls in the forest with her friends over having birthday cake with her family. It’s during that shroom trip that Elliott gets a visit from an older version of herself, played by a just world-weary-enough Plaza, who seems as adrift as younger Elliott at times. Older Elliott sets up a couple simple rules, and one of them – spend some more time with your family – isn’t unexpected at all. But the other – don’t get involved with Chad – adds a welcome extra layer of intrigue to Elliott’s ensuing journey.
And that’s part of what’s great about My Old Ass: not everything is explained right away, if at all. We don’t need to know why Elliott’s drug trip summoned her older self, or why they’re subsequently able to stay in touch via cellphone, or what the future Elliott lives in is like. Instead, we get hilariously dry, offhand comments from Plaza (“I miss water” she sighs at one point, with no explanation) as a recurring bit, with the rest of the focus squarely on younger Elliott as she struggles to heed her older self’s advice.
Here, there’s a tough line to walk between “annoyed teenager who just wants to get away from her family” and “relatable protagonist trying her best,” and Stella walks that line to perfection, so much so that it’s almost a little hard to believe that it’s her feature film debut. There could be a version of this movie where Elliott is too dismissive of her family, or too sarcastic, or too much of a joke machine, but that’s not the Elliott that comes through here. Largely because of Stella’s grounded performance, Elliott is funny and clever enough to keep us laughing, but also endearing enough to keep us rooting for her. There’s a queer storyline as well that’s handled delicately, with Stella portraying a sweet, realistic confusion at the heart of Elliott.
The rest of the cast shows up too, with Plaza playing to her strengths (that dry humor) while also displaying quite a bit of depth when needed. Plaza and Stella’s comedic and emotional chemistry is so strong that their lack of physical resemblance to each other isn’t a distraction. The movie also wouldn’t work without a thoroughly likable Chad, and Percy Hynes White is just so dang goofy and charming that it’s hard not to root against older Elliott’s advice to stay away from him.
It’s only too bad that My Old Ass’ other plots feel a little rushed and incomplete. Maddie Ziegler and Kerrice Brooks in particular are fantastic as Elliott’s best friends Ruthie and Ro, but they’re given precious little to work with. Elliott’s family, outside of a couple of solid scenes with her brother (Seth Isaac Johnson), also doesn’t get quite enough time to make an impact. My Old Ass clocks in at 89 minutes, and it’s rare that I’d argue against a “tight 90” runtime, but it might’ve helped to add in 10-20 more minutes to honor those other subplots.
Basically: Come for Aubrey Plaza’s quips from the future, stay for a story that should cross generations to inspire a little hope.