We first meet Elliott Labrant (Maisy Stella) during the dog days of summer in the picturesque Muskoka Lakes area of Ontario, Canada right before she’s set to leave for college. A queer teen who spends her days getting high, hooking up with the cute local barista Chelsea (Alexandra River), and ripping around in her boat, she’s freewheeling and naive in the very normal way teenagers her age can be. She often ditches her relatives for her friends and is keen to remind everyone how excited she is to finally leave her family’s cranberry farm and move to Toronto for college in the fall. Initially, this familiar setup makes My Old Ass seem like just another feel-good, coming-of-age movie. However, by the end of the first act, it quickly becomes apparent that this is exponentially more than just your average, clichéd crowd-pleaser.
Written and directed by Megan Park (The Fallout), and also produced by Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment, My Old Ass stars relative newcomer Maisy Stella (Nashville) in her first feature film role as Elliott. Aside from acting, Stella is known for her growing singing career in country music. Elliott is a witty 18-year-old with a granola-esque aesthetic and a complicated love life. Having been raised by a loving family of cranberry farmers, you would think Elliott would show just a little more gratitude towards her small-town lifestyle. But as sarcastic and ignorant as she can be, it’s impossible not to grow fond of her infectious charisma. It’s nearly impossible to tell that this is Stella’s film debut as she glows with the natural confidence of a well-seasoned actor.
The story kicks off when Elliott once again ditches her family to join her best friends Ro (Kerrice Brooks) and Ruthie (Maddie Ziegler) for a camping trip on a nearby island to celebrate her birthday. By nightfall, the three teens have pitched a tent, started a fire, and slurped down mugs of shroom-infused tea. Ro and Ruthie start having the trip of their lives, while a disgruntled Elliott is frustrated that she’s not feeling anything yet. But, in the blink of an eye, a woman over twice her age (Aubrey Plaza) then appears sitting right next to her. This woman claims to be Elliott from the future, at age 39 to be exact. The two Elliotts then hilariously tease and interrogate one another, eventually embracing their shared mind trip.
This once-in-a-lifetime encounter takes an awkward turn when Older Elliott warns her younger self to steer clear of a boy named Chad at all costs, with no further explanation. Plaza’s character is crucial to the narrative but limited in screen time. She’s mostly heard as only audio over phone calls throughout the movie, as the teenage Elliott wakes up and realizes her mushroom trip wasn’t just a drug-induced hallucination. She finds her 39-year-old self’s contact in her phone as “Your Old Ass” and begins contacting her for life advice (though, conveniently, neither of them understand how this works).
Aubrey Plaza leans into her well-known dry humor as Old Elliott, her witty one-liners and amusing banter with Young Elliott making for the most laugh-out-loud moments in the film. She’s very fitting as a droll yet endearing “elder sister” type of character. However, Plaza gets to really flex her dramatic chops in the third act, steering the most delicate moment at the story’s climax that could have easily fallen apart in lesser hands. Plaza’s limited physical presence in My Old Ass proves to be beneficial, as not once does she begin to overshadow Maisy Stella’s endearing performance as the younger Elliott. Stella is allowed to shine while Plaza’s comedic presence is still felt throughout the plot.
As summer whittles away and college looms, Elliott begins to utilize her older self’s advice which includes spending more time with their mom (Maria Dizzia) and two younger dorky brothers Max (Seth Isaac Johnson) and Spencer (Carter Trozzolo). Cinematographer Kristen Correll captures the natural beauty of the Muskoka Lakes and creates a nostalgic atmosphere, akin to the feeling you get when rewatching home videos from your childhood. My Old Ass opens the door for you to reflect on your own upbringing, and how it may not be too late to heal old wounds. Seeing the Old Elliott trying to fix the past with her cryptic advice and the Young Elliott trying to make things right in the present, sometimes before there’s even a problem to begin with, can be both inspiring and heartbreaking. As Old Elliott says, “The only thing you can’t get back is time.”
It’s unavoidable fate that Elliott soon runs into a charming young man working for her family’s cranberry farm whose name is, yes, Chad. Percy Hynes White (Wednesday) plays the lovable Chad, and try as Elliott might, despite her future self’s texts and warnings, she just can’t resist falling in love with the seemingly perfect boy. The more time they spend together, the more Elliott is entranced by his dumb jokes, playful and chivalrous nature, and eagerness to be of help. She falls for Chad so hard that she hallucinates herself performing a song for him as Justin Bieber while on shrooms – which sounds totally absurd but writer-director Megan Park pulls off the joke in style. It’s not the only time My Old Ass takes its comedy further than you would expect, though it’s all in service of building a genuine teenage romance.
The film shows its true cards when the truth about Chad is finally revealed and realized at once. My Old Ass tackles some extreme themes and has an emotional gut punch in the third act that catapults it from a typical coming-of-age status to another tier altogether. It’s a love letter to childhood and youth, a tender recreation by filmmaker Megan Park of time gone by – a photo album in motion if you will. The movie’s grounded story, accented with all the whimsy that comes from its sci-fi concept, will leave audiences either smiling or sniffling. There’s something personal everyone can take home from this tale. Park gently reminds us of what it felt like to be a teen, how quickly time moves, and all the unrecognized “lasts” that have passed, and those to come.
My Old Ass urges its audience to cherish time above all else, because life is too precious not to be living it with loved ones to the fullest. It’s a poignant depiction of how short of a flicker adolescence lasts, and how fast adulthood eventually catches up to us all. Many coming-of-age films have touched upon this theme before, but very few have done it in such a creative and profound way as Megan Park’s second feature. My Old Ass is a real winner bolstered by true originality and undeniable heart.