“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?” –– Joni Mitchell

More or less a feature-length adaptation of those immortal lyrics, Megan Park’s My Old Ass takes a humorous, crowd-pleasing, and rather pat look at remembering to appreciate what you have in the moment. Anyone long out of high school has had the fantasy of wondering how your life would’ve turned out differently––if only you could have given some insight to your younger self at those crucial forks in the road. Imagining this scenario with a dash of time travel in its comedy-first approach, My Old Ass yearns to go down easy and succeeds at such, but one wishes it dug a bit deeper into its Pollyannaish script and aesthetic.

There are precisely 22 days left until summer wraps for Elliott (Maisy Stella, in an impressively charismatic feature debut). She’s ready to experience bigger things beyond the Thomas Kinkade-like lakeside town where her family has farmed cranberries for generations. Having been accepted to the University of Toronto, she’s headed to the big city and leaving behind mom, dad, two brothers, her girlfriend, and a pair of close pals. With her mind already in the future and neither time nor interest in keeping up with her family, Elliott’s only goal is to enjoy these last few weeks the best she can.

As one last hurrah, her trio of best friends partake in a mushroom trip on an isolated nearby island. Suddenly, a 39-year-old Elliott (Aubrey Plaza) appears. After proving she is genuinely her older self, with the scars, missing pinky toe, and smaller left breast to match, Plaza’s no-nonsense, quick-talking character is keen to point out life didn’t quite go as expected. Two decades later, she’s still a Ph.D. student with few prospects in her romantic or career paths. But she does have pertinent advice for her younger self: “The only thing you can’t get back is time.” So spend it with your family while you can; also, make sure to avoid anyone named Chad.

While Plaza only has brief appearances, her banter with Stella makes for the comedic peaks––humorously dropping both personal revelations and how the world has changed 20 years hence. (Salmon doesn’t exist anymore, another thing to enjoy while you’ve still got it.) If one thinks this time-travel device evolves with Looper-esque intricacies and Primer-style plotting, prepare for disappointment. While the Elliotts find a way to communicate beyond their drug trip, Park has no interest in exploring how precisely the logic plays out, and keeping the plotting less complicated certainly matches the overall amiable, breezy tone. But considering how well Plaza and Stella play off each other, it’s disheartening how much this central conceit is forgotten through the second act, only to return at the most obviously convenient moment to tug on heartstrings. These universal platitudes, plainly delivered as they are, are affecting in the moment but don’t feel more reflective than a standard high school graduation speech.

Whatever these qualms, there’s still a good amount to appreciate about My Old Ass, a film first and foremost designed with likability in mind. From an unconventional leading man in Chad (Percy Hynes White) to the script’s frank depiction of queerness to adoration of Saoirse Ronan (which works far better than a Bieber-heavy interlude), Park’s instincts are often commendable. It’s a film that certainly doesn’t win points for originality––blending elements of On Golden Pond, Petite Maman, All of Us Strangers, About Time, CODA, and more to varying success––but if it gets you to give your parents an extra call, spend a little more time with your siblings, or enjoy life in the moment, many films have aspired to (or achieved) far less.

My Old Ass premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Grade: C+

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