Go towards the unruly, raw comedy ‘Never Goin’ Back’
Written and directed by: Augustine Frizzell
Starring: Maia Mitchell, Camila Morrone, Kyle Mooney, Joel Allen, Kendal Smith, and Matthew Holcomb
“Never Goin’ Back” – “I know that in my past I was young and irresponsible, but that’s what growing up is.” - Lindsay Lohan
Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) are young and irresponsible.
They dropped out of high school, waitress at the Buttermilk Café, barely make ends meet, and begrudgingly live with other housemates, including Jessie’s brother Dustin (Joel Allen). Ending their diploma-pursuits was not a terribly wise and graceful career move, but the girls stumble into a series of additional missteps that completely exasperate their delicate financial state of affairs in a raw comedy full of foolish antics.
Angela and Jessie spew directionless vibes reminiscent of Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) from “Clerks” (1994), as the girls - as well as Dustin and his friends Brandon (Kyle Mooney), Tony (Kendal Smith) and Ryan (Matthew Holcomb) – regularly engage in horrible lapses in judgment throughout the film’s 85-minute runtime.
So many bad decisions. So little screen time.
Writer/director Augustine Frizzell, however, makes plenty of good decisions in her directorial debut. “Never Goin’ Back” is a very funny story about the bumpier turns of adolescence and new adulthood, a time when youthful intuition does not consider an impending consequence that can appear one year, one month, one day, or one hour after a risky choice.
Frizzell clearly establishes a small-town Texas setting through a series of visual choices, when Angela and Jessie walk to work. The girls pass several local business – like Bo Bo Delight Donuts and Quickway Shopping – that sit on empty concrete parking lots with thin swathes of tangled grass that rise in the pavement cracks. Economic prosperity and upward mobility left decades ago or never existed in the first place, and no one appears thrilled with their current surroundings. Although, an 8-year-old Buttermilk Café customer enjoys pouring a jar of maple syrup on Angela’s foot, when she takes his mom’s order.
Ah, hopping on the I-10 freeway and heading west to California feels like unattainable-heaven, but Angela surprises Jessie with a more affordable version of bliss. She dropped their rent money on an ocean-front cottage in Galveston! Angela’s plan? They work their scheduled shifts over the next group of endless days and earn enough dough to cover their rent and upcoming trip.
Sounds perfect. What could go wrong?
Well, from a supervisory perch, one can imagine several potential mini-calamities, and yes, many come to fruition. Through a series of miscues, dead ends and vulgar blowups (accompanied by a sluggish rap soundtrack that may dull your senses) at least Angela’s and Jessie’s constant support and love for one another is a positive constant.
Although the teens crudely disrespect two authority figures and regularly give each other bad advice, Mitchell and Morrone devote encouraging, best-friend energy into their characters.
Angela and Jessie may not have the inquisitive knowhow and limitless vocabulary of Dante and Randal, but Frizzell does not write her characters with slick vernacular. They are a sheltered pair without visible paths to expand their potential, so they lumber on life’s hamster wheel while coping with Dustin’s dumb schemes and their bad luck. Meanwhile, their Galveston vacation seems terribly, terribly distant.
“Never Goin’ Back” is an offensive, purposely-unpolished and comedically-effective movie experience that also never distances itself from the beautiful intimacy of a close friendship. Through massive dysfunction, this particular bond is vitally important to these young and irresponsible kids, and hey, that’s a valuable lesson for everyone, including responsible adults.
Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008 and graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.