Old age is a denial of privilege for many. It’s hard to miss—especially if you’re a woman obsessed with anti-aging serums and polishing scrubs and needles that can smooth away all those hard-earned facial lines. Even though the pandemic inspired many women to embrace their gray hair, aging is still considered something that women shouldn’t, and certainly not something they should celebrate.
Mac (Elizabeth Lyle), one of the two title characters in “Mac and Rita”, feels the opposite. Raised by his stylish grandmother (Katherine Carlen), Mac feels, as she says, a 70-year-old in the body of a 30-year-old woman. She is tired of heels and staying up late and a lifestyle inspired by a vaguely successful career as a writer: one of her books did well; She’s stuck on one second now.
When she travels with her girlfriends for a bachelorette weekend and they all want to see Bad Bunny perform in the walk-in fridge, Mack chooses to check out a sketchy past-life regression thing set up on the side of the road. Is. Experience magically ages her to 40; Now played by Diane Keaton, she introduces herself as his Aunt Rita. And wouldn’t you know that, as her career takes off, as the fabulous “Rita” steals hearts, minds, and Instagram likes.
At this point, you can pretty much do the rest of the script Mad Lib for you: there’s zenness, a poignant lesson, and so on. The biggest source of tension is the (admittedly good) sex-ish banter between Keaton and Mac’s neighbor Jack (Dustin Milligan of “Shit’s Creek”).
For the most part, Rita still has to navigate a world made for youth. When Mack’s agent – unaware of Mack’s transformation – hires her to go to the “Pilates for All Bodies” program, all bodies are young, female and thin. (kudos to him if Keaton, who is 76, did his stunt work on those machines.
He performs tricks that can cut most people in half.) Rita finds her men at a women’s book club – Like a wine club. Book Habit – Portrayed by a powerhouse of older actresses including Wendy Malick, Loretta Devine, Lois Smith and Amy Hill. It is there, of course, that she learns that growing old with confidence is a gift, but also a reward for the work of your youth. Her new friends also point out that, in fact, you can quit wearing heels in your 30s. Elastic waistband and an afternoon nap for everyone!
It is wonderful to see older women on screen. It’s wonderful to watch a young woman grow up as what she wants to do, even if she doesn’t really understand what comes with it: knee pain, the weird poky hair on your chin, those pill organizers saying “AM” And getting by with “PM” written on them—and more knee pain. But “Mac & Rita” can’t sell that message. Keaton, who can be so funny, seems at a loss as to what to do. Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh’s short script is full of filler.
At one point, Rita does magic mushrooms to try to get back at little Mac (which doesn’t seem like a great solution, and we all know the story is going to end anyway). The members of the book club are equally great, and Milligan is quite sociable in a typical way, but the standout performance is Taylor Paige (“Zola”) as Mack’s best friend, Carla. She brings nuance and a spark of life to a perfectly written character.
“Mac & Rita” feels both too short and long, paradoxically. It could have probed the topic of aging more deeply. Alternatively, it would have made a good short film about a young man who becomes a senior citizen for one night. Anyway, this is a story that doesn’t need to be told and isn’t told very well. (Never mind that Mack doesn’t just want to grow old—he wants to be old, healthy, and prosperous.) And there’s no mention of the retirement planning book club gals will have to maintain their “glama” aesthetic.
After the movie, I texted my mom, who is in her 70s, to ask what she liked about growing up. “I don’t give an s— what do people think,” he replied. (This is the same woman who won’t let me call her “butt” for being a grown-up.) Maybe she’s onto something. After all, she gave up on her heels decades ago. And maybe she wants “Mac & Rita.” If so, more power to him. For the rest of us? There are better ways to waste your youth.