Sundance 2024 Review: MY OLD ASS, Wise, Insightful, and Frequently Hilarious in Equal Part(s)

Lead Critic; San Francisco, California
Sundance 2024 Review: MY OLD ASS, Wise, Insightful, and Frequently Hilarious in Equal Part(s)

The summer between the end of high school and for some, college, can be filled with an unequal combination of anxiety and anticipation. Anxiety of the unknown and anticipation of new and novel experiences, of new friends and new relationships, can be overwhelming. 

Via Canadian-born writer-director Megan Park’s (The Fallout) second film, My Old Ass, a heartrending, coming-of-age comedy-drama, that last summer before college can be both a time to celebrate future possibilities and mourn the loss of the past, including the family, parents, and siblings individually and collectively, left behind. For Park, the past may or may not be immutable, but remembering it free of nostalgia and recognizing the transitory nature of time, memory, and relationships are more than worthwhile: They’re essential.

When we first meet Elliott Labrant (a stellar Maisy Stella), she’s thoroughly enjoying the last few, carefree weeks before she moves to Toronto to begin her studies at university. She goes almost everywhere around town with ride-or-die best friends, Ruthie (Maddie Ziegler) and Ro (Kerrice Brooks), targets a local barista for her last summer fling, and avoids spending quality time with her desperately uncool parents and her equally uncool siblings, teen Max (Seth Isaac Johnson) and preteen Spencer (Carter Trozzolo).

The mild-mannered, somewhat nerdy, golfing-obsessed Max hopes to inherit the family cranberry farm, a choice and decision the responsibility-avoiding, freedom-embracing Elliot welcomes with open arms.

With time fast running out on their last summer together, Elliot, Ruthie, and Ro venture to a nearby island for an overnight sojourn under the stars and the warm glow of a campfire. Courtesy of Ro’s friend, psychedelic mushrooms are also on the menu. Once Elliot, Ruthie, and Ro take shrooms, they part company, experiencing personal visions of one kind or another. 

For Elliot, the shrooms bring her into direct contact with her older, not-quite-badass self (Aubrey Plaza). The older Elliot attempts to counsel her younger self on a few tried-and-true truisms, like living in the moment, being kinder and gentler to her family, and above all else, avoiding dudes named “Chad.” She even leaves her future phone number in younger Elliot’s phone under “My Old Ass” just in case her younger self needs emotional support.

Older Elliot never explains why her younger self should avoid Chad at all and at any cost. Once a dude named Chad (Percy Hynes White) appears nymph-like in a local lake or river, Elliot does everything possible to avoid him right up until she can’t: the lanky, long-haired Chad is a local and college student, back for a few weeks before he returns to Toronto. He’s also working on the Labrant cranberry farm, turning Elliot’s poorly conceived avoidance strategies on their head.

Younger Elliot, though, has an obvious out: She firmly identifies as lesbian, but not as bisexual. That alone should be sufficient to keep Chad at arm’s length. Chad’s presence, along with his goofy charm and earnest personality, however, threatens to upend how Elliot sees herself and her sexuality (fixed before Chad, far more fluid after meeting him).

And meeting the sweet-natured Chad proves impossible for Elliot to avoid. He’s seemingly everywhere and nowhere at once, forcing Elliot into a literal and figurative conversation with herself over the as-yet-unwritten future and the intractable problem Chad appears to represent.

Elliot’s fluid sexuality will certainly prove a sticking point for some viewers on the other side of the screen, but it’s one Park handles with genuine sensitivity. It helps tremendously too that Stella makes Elliot’s self-centeredness and egotism somehow appealing.

In a film in large part about personal growth and maturity, Elliot’s journey toward self-awareness and ultimately self-actualization always rings true, a testament to Park’s writing and directing along with a well-rounded cast headlined by Stella, White, and, of course, Plaza in a welcome role that wrings a surprising amount of humor, pathos, and poignancy from limited screen time.  

My Old Ass premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Amazon MGM Studios will release it later this year.

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Aubrey PlazaMaddie ZeiglerMaisy StellaMegan ParkMy Old AssPercy Hynes White

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