Maisy Stella and Aubrey Plaza appear in 'My Old Ass' by Megan Park, an official selection of the Pre...


Review: My Old Ass Is A Tender, Queer Coming-Of-Age Story With Aubrey Plaza As A Spirit Guide

In director Megan Park’s tender and original sophomore film, an 18-year-old meets her 39-year-old self during a mushroom trip.

In My Old Ass, a teenage summer romance, times are simpler. The year is 2022, and Aubrey Plaza tells us that in 20 years, salmon will one day go extinct, people won’t be allowed to have three children, and Penelope Disick will become a wellness mogul. These are just some of the revelations about the future that Plaza, who plays an older version of My Old Ass’s main character Elliott (Maisy Stella) offers.

Though we may get glimpses of what’s to come, My Old Ass is about squeezing every bit of juice you can from the present. With deadpan wit and a precocious lead in Stella, My Old Ass is a tender, original, and surprisingly emotional take on the teen coming-of-age genre, adding a sprinkle of fantasy to the tenderness of Ladybird — which left the theater sobbing at its Sundance Film Festival premiere. Despite that reaction, there’s plenty of levity, including a notable and hilarious Justin Bieber needle drop during a mushroom trip that buoys the film.

But the way writer-director Megan Park plays with romance and light science fiction never feels naive. Following her debut film The Fallout — a school-shooting friendship drama starring Maddie Ziegler and Jenna Ortega — Park casts Stella as My Old Ass’s 18-year-old Elliott, a first lead role that is sure to catapult her to quick stardom. (You might recognize Stella from Nashville, where she appeared with her sister Lennon as a country-music duo). The film follows Elliot, who’s eager to leave her family’s Ontario cranberry farm and start college in Toronto. But during a camping trip (complete with the aforementioned shrooms), she sees a woman sitting next to her on a log, who’s soon revealed to be her 39-year-old self. Older Elliott puts her name in young Elliott’s phone under the contact “My Old Ass,” and they figure out how to text and call each other.

Here, the movie is too smart to fall into any spirit-guide tropes; instead, it immediately smacks the premise in its face by revealing a less-than-ideal future. Two decades from now, Elliot doesn’t have a hot wife and three kids like she had hoped. (She’s single and pursuing a PhD.) But some of the film’s funniest moments revel in the banality of the future Elliot has in store, delivered in Plaza’s signature sarconic timing and tone. For example, between telling Elliott to wear her retainer and moisturize, Plaza warns her to stay away from guys named Chad. Should be easy, right? Elliott only likes girls … but like clockwork, she meets a handsome, lanky guy named (what else?) Chad. (We should note that Percy Hynes White delivers one of the most charming performances of the film, which is general enough so that he feels like your first love, but with enough dorky physical comedy that he feels one of a kind.)

As Elliot tries to avoid him, she soon realizes her sexuality may not be as set as she thought, which is another area where My Old Ass shines. While coming-of-age films have often included queer characters, this is among the most accurate, non-pandering representations of sexuality we’ve seen, with plenty of expansive, gray areas. “Am I bi?” Elliott asks her friend, Ro. “Just because you like a man doesn’t make you any less queer,” Ro replies. “I don’t think any less of you.”

Sure, My Old Ass is about saying goodbye to childhood and youth. Plaza encourages her younger self to hang out with her brothers more and eat all the salmon she can because it won’t be around forever. But what makes it so powerful, elevating it from just another teen summer romance flick, is that it’s about the power of boldly going for love when you’re young. It’s easy to forget about that power the older you get, and being reminded of it is the greatest gift the film gives its audience. It asks the question: If you knew you could make different decisions in your life to avoid pain, would you? For Elliott, she doesn’t hesitate. She reminds her older self that that’s the great thing about being young.