Courtesy of Sundance Institute
While planning out the trippiest mushroom scene in her hallucinogenic Sundance time travel movie My Old Ass, writer-director Megan Park knew she wanted something today’s youth grew up obsessing over—something that would resonate with the Gen-Z kids now getting ready to leave the nest for college. Naturally she turned to her young star, Canadian singer and actress Maisy Stella. The answer was immediate and obvious: They should re-stage Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl” concert performances, in which he’d hand out roses to expectant tweens on stage. But this time, it would be Stella’s character, Elliott, bestowing a flower upon her first-ever male crush as he gazes nervously into her eyes and her friends dance in the background.
My Old Ass captures the warm glow of adolescence in its smooth, unwrinkled hand. Elliott and her friends are getting ready to leave home for college when they decide to trip on mushrooms in the woods for her 18th birthday. While her BFF Ro (newcomer Kerrice Brooks) can’t stop dancing and her other bestie Ruthie (Maddie Ziegler) starts cuddling a wild rabbit, Elliott’s trip goes in a different direction. Out of nowhere, her older self appears in the form of Aubrey Plaza—whom even she is quick to point out looks nothing like her. After spending the night grilling her older self for exciting glimpses at the future and mistakes to avoid, Elliott wakes up to find “My Old Ass” saved in her phone, kicking off a strange and time-bending friendship.
The Bieber scene lands the second time Elliott trips out in the woods, this time in a desperate attempt to reach her future self after days of no contact. As revealed during a post-screening festival Q&A, Park wasn’t sure if the Biebs would approve the song’s use, but in the end, they got the go-ahead. And just like that, Sundance 2024 got its funniest scene.