Mack Martin (Elizabeth Lail), the protagonist of the new comedy “Mack and Rita” is the kind of friend you love to death but dread having to baby-sit at social events.
“I grew up always feeling like I was an older woman trapped in the body of a little girl,” says Mack in the opening voice-over. She shows up to the bachelorette festivities of her best friend Carla (Taylour Paige) in a plain jumpsuit romper that Carla’s friends call “very incorrect” for the occasion.
Mack hates the clothes they make her change into (she thinks the boots make her look like a giraffe), she doesn’t want to wait in line for the hip brunch place they picked, and she definitely does not want to “rally” and see Bad Bunny perform in a walk-in fridge.
In search of a place to lie down, she wanders into a tent where a man claims to be peddling past life regressions. While resting in a repurposed old tanning bed and imagining who she wants to be, she magically transforms into the 70-year-old version of herself (Diane Keaton).
“Mack and Rita” is like “13 Going on 30″ with a crunchier twist. But unlike Jennifer Garner’s 2004 portrayal of a body-swapped 30-year-old, this film will not be a classic. Instead of having to figure out an alternate life as a 70-year-old, Mack is tasked with continuing business as usual in her normal life as a struggling writer. She dubs the 70-year-old version of herself Rita, and she explains her sudden absence (and Rita’s sudden appearance) as an apartment swap with Rita.
Whether she’s Mack or Rita, she doesn’t quite feel 30 . . . or 70. It’s not the fault of the actors, but rather inconsistencies in the writing. At one point, Mack’s agent (Patti Harrison) suggests she write a short story about the time she “projectile vomited into the Tex-Mex bowl at junior prom.” It’s unclear why Mack, a 30-year-old who has published a book of essays about her relationship with her grandmother (Catherine Carlen), and the thirty-somethings around her are so hung up on high school.
And they act like they’re still in high school, too. Mack has the maturity of an entitled teenager: simultaneously too shy to actually talk to her crush, Jack (Dustin Milligan), but bold enough to derail that bachelorette weekend simply because she doesn’t feel like doing any of the things. As Rita, Keaton is almost too chic. Her cheetah-patterned accessories and stylish hats aren’t consistent with the girl who constantly gets dinged for her drab fashion choices.
Despite writing a whole book about her grandma, Mack seems to think being 70 will consist mostly of “sitting around and falling asleep until someone comes and shakes me awake and tells me it’s time to go sleep somewhere else.” She confuses loving her grandma with wanting to be her. Although Mack likes vintage jackets, when given the opportunity she doesn’t actually want to miss growing older with her friends or to embrace the physical changes that come with age.
“You didn’t want to be old,” says Carla’s mom (Loretta Devine). “What you wanted was to be you.” But Mack has trouble being that, too. With her “glam-ma” look, Mack (or should I say Rita) builds a social media following by posting a pilates class selfie. In a film about generational differences, it’s a tired jab at social media influencers and Internet fame. But it also doesn’t track with the character: She never wanted to be posting branded content.
At the very least, having an alter ego allows Rita to get close to Jack, the boy next door who watches her dog while she’s away. He is 40 and has a cushy private wealth managing job that allows him to wear a hoodie under a sports jacket and longboard inside his apartment during the work day. He is also a genuinely nice guy who has done a lot of therapy and read Mack’s book.
It’s clear he has a thing for Mack, but quickly falls for Rita: They share a tub of ice cream together at one point. It’s not technically wrong, but it still feels weird because of the age difference (they get mistaken for mother and son). “Mack and Rita” is the kind of movie I’d watch in the background of a sleepover while gossiping with my girlfriends, but not necessarily in a theater. It’s enjoyable for the comedy, but it gets a lot about both millennials and boomers wrong.
The film misses an opportunity to portray the complexity of one’s 30s — and 70s. Still, “Mack & Rita” is a quirky movie that reminds the audience to live life to the fullest, whatever age they are.
MACK & RITA
Directed by Katie Aselton. Written by Madeline Walter, Paul Welsh. Starring Diane Keaton, Dustin Milligan, Elizabeth Lail, Taylour Paige, Loretta Devine. At AMC Boston Common 19, suburbs. 95 minutes. PG-13 (some drug use, sexual references, and language).
Serena Puang was a Globe intern in 2022. Follow her on Twitter @SerenaPuang.