'My Old Ass' Promises Queer Confusion, Joy, and Mess In Your Thirties
plus a scoop of the sapphic or straight blues
This review is part of my 2024 Sundance Film Festival Coverage!
I remember being 18. I spent the summer in Detroit, where I was born and raised, prepping for the rest of my life. I had a big graduation party where folks came to celebrate me and my move to New York City—the place I’d dreamed of living forever. I sat at the dining room table with my parents after the party was over, and with the music from the CD my dad proudly burned still playing outside in the backyard, and our aluminum blinds clinking together from the summer air, we counted the money I was given as gifts.
I got about 4 grand, the most money I’d had in my whole life. My mom told me that after we got everything on my dorm checklist—the rest of the money was mine to do what I pleased.
I couldn’t fucking wait to leave Detroit, and now that I had a few grand in my pocket I was unstoppable. I would have left that night if I could. I’d spent 18 years in the same city and the furthest I’d gone from home was to visit Cedar Pointe in Ohio or Wheels Inn in Canada. In my 18-year-old mind, I was bigger than this boring city, with my boring parents, and the boring life I was living.
In Megan Park’s latest film My Old Ass, which premiered at Sundance, queer ‘Hey Mamas’ Elliott (Maisy Stella) feels the same way I did. She’s 18 and ready to leave her PICTURESQUE ASS CANADIAN TOWN. To her, the town is too slow, her family is annoying, and she absolutely can’t spend any more of her life there.
The only thing she’s gonna miss is her best friends Ro and Ruthie (Kerrice Brooks and Maddie Ziegler), and her crush….and maybe the slew of girls she’s fucked around with over the years. We learn that she’s going to school in Toronto in a few weeks, but before she leaves, she and her besties are going to take a mushroom trip. Because of course they are—they're 18 fuckin years old so this is basically the greatest idea in the world.
I’m not good on drugs and turns out…neither is Elliott. I spent a lot of time smoking odd NY weed in the mid-2000s and ended up having a very uncomfortable lacing experience that involved the bathroom turning into a void, and zombies on the walk to my job at Crabtree and Evelyn the following morning. Elliott has a much cooler trip—she gets a visit from her 39-year-old self, played by Aubrey Plaza.
Elliott does exactly what you are supposed to do. After they have a brief argument on whether 39 is middle-aged, she asks a million questions about what her future life looks like. How are her wife and kids? Where do they live? How rich is she? Older Elliott doesn’t answer much—possibly because we all know Back To the Future rules—but she makes her promise to stay away from a boy she will meet named Chad.
A few days after the trip is a wrap, Elliott meets a boy named, you guessed it, fucking Chad (1Percy Hynes White). She’s confused for so many reasons. Why did older her want her to stay away from this person who seems to be pretty dope? But the bigger question for her is—Why is she falling for him?
She has been so sure of her sexuality for most of her life. She loves women, she loves sex with women, she knows she is gay, and her queer identity is a big part of who she is. Now, here is this fucking cishet white guy making her feel otherwise. In a summer that was meant for saying goodbye to so many things, she's suddenly faced with saying hi to a whole new set of emotions and tussling with these unfamiliar feelings.
In Megan Park's storytelling, there's an authentic portrayal of the restlessness and excitement that comes with being 18. You’re leaving the familiar behind for the unknown and you’re fearless about it. The film delves into the complexities of relationships and self-discovery, and does a really solid job of capturing the essence of, well, growing up as a teenage girl.
It’s a queer story with a pseudo-straight twist, and that is where I have a bit of an issue. This part of the story makes me kinda uneasy because it could end up spreading these stereotypes that queerness is just a transient phase into straightness, rather than acknowledging it as this huge range of identities. There is a moment in the film where it feels like Parks (who is a Millenial and I don’t know if she is queer but in 2015 she married Tyler Hilton) was aware it could be viewed as such, and she attempts to address it through some quick Gen-Z-esque dialogue, but the feeling for me remained.
When I was 18 and still living at home with my parents, I wasn't open about my sexuality, but I could piece together their opinions (they have since grown tremendously) from the conversations I overheard and their reactions to queer folks. It was pretty clear that being gay was a sin, a bit weird, and if you ended up dykin’ then SURELY it must be just a phase. Being gay was only a thing until a woman found the right man.
Boys my age weren’t any better and had a matching sentiment which was, “You just haven’t had the right dick”……Fucking HELP.
Thinking about the folks who watch this, especially those who might not be super familiar with all the ins and outs of the queer community, it's a bit concerning. Elliott, who's proudly identifying as gay, seems to lean towards prioritizing straight relationships in the future, at least that's the vibe the story gives off. It kind of unintentionally downplays the depth that queer relationships can bring to the table. Feels like a missed chance to explore a queer relationship, and how it grows with age, in a more nuanced way.
So often in film, lesbians are portrayed as yearners, non-commital, chasing straight women, or in unrequited love and it would have been dope to have Elliott talk to her older queer self and learn that ultimately she ended up in a healthy and successful queer relationship.
BUT on the flip side of that, I can also understand how folks who watch this who may be questioning their queerness, or in the middle of learning how vast it is, could truly connect with Elliott as she learns about herself.
The film also gives a fly opportunity to put a spotlight on intergenerational friendships and aging. Especially in the queer community where those friendships are lacking and aging is not guaranteed. It could start those conversations in film and help to grow the next class of New Queer Cinema.
My Old Ass has a few things that might not quite hit the mark, but it's still adding to the conversation about queer identities and relationships. The world of sexuality can be a complicated one, and some folks have struggles they go through to figure themselves out. That unexpected twist toward the straight side, even if it makes you raise an eyebrow like it did for me, opens up a chance to talk about queer identities and why we need more nuanced portrayals in the media.
I thought a lot about my younger self this week, and I know there is no way she would take shrooms but if she, I dunno, ::deep breath in:: gets caught in a snowstorm with her 3 drunk roommates and has to sober mommy drive them across the Tappan Zee Bridge in the tiniest of cars with a broken gas meter to get them safely back to their dorms and needs a sign from the universe to tell her they are going to make it home….she should conjure me up—and my old ass will be there to tell her everything works out just fucking fine.
There is also a queer interracial romance element to this movie which again…I’m kind of exhausted with.
Kerrice Brooks is VERY fun to watch on camera and I hope she keeps going in the acting game.
I’ve never loved the song One Less Lonely Girl until I watched this movie
I was at the panel for this film and I would tell you to watch it but The LA Times just fired a bunch of its staff and was disrespectful about it so…fuck them and go on Twitter and hire those journalists for things!
Thanks bunches for reading my newsletter! If you aren’t already, please consider becoming a paid subscriber! Your shares, dollars, and dope vibes allow me to continue making my dream a reality so thanks for being on the cute ride!