Directed by: Augustine Frizzell
Premise: A pair of teenage girls (Camila Morrone and Maia Mitchell) gets into a series of misadventures while raising money for a beachside getaway.
What Works: Never Goin’ Back is a raunchy comedy of errors. The story centers upon Angela and Jessie, a pair of destitute young women who love to party and plan a beachside vacation for Jessie’s birthday. Angela and Jessie live on the periphery of society; they’re high school drop outs who waitress at a local diner but are consistently late for their shifts due to idleness and intoxication. The two of them form a human train wreck and Never Goin’ Back is a series of outrageous escapades that is lewdly funny. Nearly every scene delivers a laugh and filmmaker Augustine Frizzell demonstrates a talent for pacing and stacking the action to build to a payoff. Actors Camila Morrone and Maia Mitchell are a great comedy team. The two of them commit to the material and they have terrific comic timing. The filmmakers throw themselves and the viewers into the lives of these women and Never Goin’ Back has a convincing authenticity. The movie takes place in the impoverished streets and neighborhoods that Angela and Jessie call home and ultimately want to escape. These locales are photographed naturalistically and the movie has a vivid sense of place. Underneath the action is an implicit understanding of why drunkenness and intoxication become popular coping mechanisms in places like this. Never Goin’ Back shows some influence of filmmaker Harmony Korine. However, writer and director Augustine Frizzell is less nihilistic than Korine and Never Goin’ Back possesses a rebellious spirit and a yearning for escape that make Angela and Jessie at least a bit empathetic.
What Doesn’t: Angela and Jessie aren’t clearly distinguished from one another. Actors Camila Morrone and Maia Mitchell look distinct enough and they are believable as friends but they are mostly interchangeable; neither Angela nor Jessie has a distinct personality of her own. The story is largely a string of coincidences. That is usually a storytelling foible; characters are generally interesting if they possess volition but Angela and Jessie stumble in whichever direction the wind blows them. However, as is so often the case in comedies, narrative rules don’t necessarily apply here. The randomness of fate is part of the humor and that quality mostly works for this film. How viewers respond to Never Goin’ Back will ultimately depend on how they feel about the stupidity on display. Angela and Jessie and their friends are imbeciles and this film laughs at their stupidity. In that respect, Never Goin’ Back is of a piece with movies like Dumb and Dumber and Borat and viewers who liked those films will probably enjoy this movie as well but those who didn’t should steer clear of it.
DVD extras: Commentary track, featurette, deleted scene, and a blooper reel.
Bottom Line: Never Goin’ Back is an impressive debut feature from filmmaker Augustine Frizzell. The film may not be to everyone’s taste but fans of outrageous comedy should definitely seek it out.
Episode: #751 (June 2, 2019)