In her feature film debut, Augustine Frizzell imbues Never Goin’ Back with healthy doses of stoner-comedy raunchiness and moments of genuine female camaraderie. Despite the inherent teenage selfishness on display, it’s hard not to root for best friends Jessie (Camila Morrone) and Angela (Maia Mitchell) as they stumble through each misadventure all in an attempt to get the hell out of dodge, aka small-town Texas.
Jessie and Angela are two 16-year-old high school dropouts, working at a diner, and living with Jessie’s brother Dustin (Joel Allen), who has aspirations of being a drug dealer, and another male roommate, Brandon (Kyle Mooney), who works at a sandwich shop. Parents are non-existent in their world, and we never learn how this motley assortment of teens living together came to be. And it hardly matters. For Jessie and Angela, their entire lives revolve around being each other’s best friend, lover, and protector. So when Angela surprises Jessie with a beach trip for her 17th birthday (it’s Galveston, but still), we begin to understand how much of a dead end street these girls are traveling on, and how much this trip means to both of them. Angela uses their month’s rent money on the trip, which at first makes Jessie upset, but Angela has it all figured out. They’re going to work their asses off for the next week, make up the money in extra shifts at the diner so they can cover the trip and the rent. But of course, this wouldn’t be a movie if it were that easy.
Instead of working diligently toward their goal of freedom, the girls fall into a myriad of ever-escalating situations that are at times both hilarious and immensely frustrating. Frizzell does an admirable job fashioning a story that features Jessie and Angela as both victims of their own misguided choices as well as the dimwitted choices of those around them, namely Jessie’s brother Dustin. Jessie and Angela may not be able to control Dustin or his friends, but they can decide to go to work sober, put their heads down, and get through the week so they can enjoy a nice vacation. But they’re teenagers. Selfish, ready-for-a-good-time teenagers who despite having more responsibility than most their age, are ill-equipped to handle it. But at the very least, Frizzell makes these characters free agents. They make decisions that have real-world consequences and they face them as any dynamic duo would: together.
The chemistry between Morrone and Mitchell is palpable, and even though I wouldn’t want these girls’ lives for a second, I do envy their intimacy with each other. Yes, they enable each other’s worse tendencies but they also have each backs, and regardless of how many times you find yourself shaking your head at how much more complicated they are making their lives, you can’t help but want them to succeed at least for each other. Morrone and Mitchell also play two high people extremely well. I haven’t spoken in great depth about the humor in this film, stoner or otherwise, but there is a scene where Jessie and Angela try and fail to come off to their boss and sanctimonious coworker as sober and fail miserably to hilarious effect. There is also a climactic moment involving constipated bowels, a bucket, a pervy old man, a sandwich, and lots of vomit. But I’ll let you experience it for yourself.
Never Goin’ Back is a wild, fun ride that breathes new life into the teen comedy formula. The jury’s out as to wether these two actually learn anything, but damn, is that not a beautiful sunset.
Never Goin’ Back opens today at the Ritz Bourse.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.