January 24, 2024

Sundance 2024 Film Reviews: “It’s What’s Inside” & “My Old Ass”


IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE (Netflix – TBD):  The biggest sale of the festival as of this writing–a $17M paycheck from Netflix–was its most dynamite entertainment.  Greg Jardin’s feature writing/directing debut feels like Bodies Bodies Bodies was given an injection of The Last of Sheila‘s brains.  Note:  Jardin has asked that his central plot mechanism not be spoiled, which will make describing the film a bit tricky.  The initial premise is quite similar to Last of Sheila:  years after a scandalous event–in this case, a disastrous college party that resulted in Forbes (David Thompson) being expelled–the group of friends and frenemies reunites for a gathering that comes to revolve around an irresistible but extremely dangerous game, which Forbes carries in his locked briefcase.  Not everyone will survive the night, and those that do will find their secrets exposed, and their deepest ideas about themselves and their relationships shaken.  Jardin’s script is funny and ingenious, and if it isn’t quite clear at the end that all the pieces have fit together perfectly, that’s a pardonable sin for a story with this kind of byzantine construction.  The delightful cast includes Brittany O’Grady and James Morosini as the central couple, Alycia Debnam-Carey as the group’s glamorous Instagram star, and Devon Terrell as the evening’s host, a groom-to-be whose wedding is the impetus for the party.  Jardin’s background is in trailers and music videos, so the film’s look is splashy (photography by Kevin Fletcher) and fast (self-edited by Jardin).  For audiences willing to concentrate as they munch their popcorn, It’s What’s Inside is a whizzbang contraption of fun.

MY OLD ASS (no distrib):  A warm coming-of-age story, laced with comedy and a touch of fantasy that in the end becomes a surprisingly effective weepie.  In Megan Park’s second feature, Elliott (Maisy Stella) is enduring her final summer on her family’s Canadian cranberry farm before kicking off her small-town dust and flying to her glamorous new life as a college student in Toronto.  One night, though, after ingesting some mushrooms with her best friends (Maddie Ziegler and Kerrice Brooks), she finds herself visited by her 39-year old self (Aubrey Plaza), a phenomenon neither Elliott can understand.  Old Elliott gives her younger counterpart just one piece of instruction:  stay away from anyone named Chad.  No one will fail to guess the name of the cute new guy in town (Percy Hynes White), whose appeal confuses Elliott not just because of her elder’s adamant rule, but because until now, she’d always considered herself exclusively gay.  For the most part, My Old Ass unfolds in expected ways, as young Elliott’s expanded awareness of time and fate changes the way she sees her town and family and herself.  Even so, Park’s relaxed, consistently amusing script smooths the path, and she’s got a surprise in her pocket for the climax, when we find out what older Elliott knows about Chad.  Park’s first film The Fallout proved her to be a skilled director of young actors (she was once a successful teen actress herself), and she gets marvelous work from all the young performers, especially Stella.  Plaza has been steadily demonstrating that there’s more to her repertoire than snark, and while she has plenty of opportunities to showcase her deadpan wit here, she brings impressive depth to the final section.  My Old Ass may be too small to become a breakout hit, but with the right push it could become a sleeper.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."