Film Review: ‘Never Goin’ Back’ Gives the Buddy Comedy Genre a Girl Power Spin


Comedies about dumb pals, be they stoners or whatnot, are almost exclusively the realm of guys onscreen. Buffoonery made actors like Seth Rogen into stars. Now, as a breath of fresh air, comes “Never Goin’ Back,” a buddy comedy where the numskulls are a couple of teenage girls. They drink, they do drugs, they swear, they get into all sorts of trouble, and it’s utterly refreshing to see. In the same way that Rogen or the work of Kevin Smith spoke to scores of dudes who saw themselves in the cinematic shenanigans, now the ladies have their turn. Luckily, this indie comedy is a blast, so it’s far from just an exercise in representation. It’s great to see, for sure, but this is also a movie with more in its favor.

In some ways a calling card film, “Never Goin’ Back” suggests a bright future for filmmaker Augustine Frizzell. The wife of David Lowery shows that both ends of that marriage are top notch storytellers. Frizzell also found a pair of utterly entrancing ladies to play her tough parts. It’s a fine line, watching these characters make poor choice after poor choice. You have to still like them, even when they’re being utterly unlikable. Despite a few narrative shortcomings, that’s never an issue.

Best friends Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) don’t have a particularly great life. They live in a crummy Texas neighborhood, are high school drop outs, and make a meager living at a scuzzy diner. What they do have is each other. That, and drugs. They love each in equal measure. During one particularly trying patch, they opt for a birthday getaway to the Galveston beach. Then, life starts to conspire against them.

First, it turns out that they’re spending rent money for this trip. Compounding the situation is that they’re roommates, sibling Dustin (Joel Allen) and the horny Brandon (Kyle Mooney), are venturing into drug dealing. When that goes poorly, the girls are the ones who wind up serving a weekend in prison. This puts their jobs on the line, leading to all sorts of get rich quick schemes. All through, they keep getting high, cracking wise about anything and everything, get into more trouble, and help each other. They may be terrible people, but they’re amazing friends.

Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone are both major discoveries. The duo are mesmerizing in their depiction of wayward teenagers who just want to be left alone. Mitchell plays the more fiery of the two, often leading them into trouble. She is also the younger looking of the pair, leading to adults periodically underestimating them. Some of her offhand comments, especially one about a homeless gentleman at the bus station, are tremendous. Morrone gets to the straight woman of sorts, here and there at least. Plus, she has to constantly look for a bathroom she’s willing to use, leading to some low art comedy there. In many ways, they remind you of James Franco and the aforementioned Rogen in “Pineapple Express.” Supporting players are afterthoughts, from Allen and Mooney (wasted), to the likes of Matthew Holcomb, Marcus M. Mauldin, and Kendal Smith.

Writer/director (as well as editor) Augustine Frizzell showcases some major talent here. Interestingly, the description of the plot could just as easily have been for a dark teen drama. After all, dropouts who get into some rough stuff looking for quick money? That could be a tragedy, as opposed to a black comedy. In addition, Frizzell has a wonderful ear for music cues. “Never Goin’ Back” has catchy tunes throughout. Spouse Lowery observed couples in works like “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” and “A Ghost Story.” Frizzell is doing the same, just in the realm of teenage girls and their friendship.

Provided that you like this sort of comedy, “Never Goin’ Back” has a lot to offer. There are missteps, including a lack of suspense as things move from one bad situation to the next. That’s a rookie mistake by Frizzell. However, there’s also the strong work by Mitchell and Morrone, the consistent laughs, and the overall filmmaking prowess on display. This independent comedy may be a cult classic in the making. Moreover, you’ll be eager to see what all three women end up doing next!


GRADE: (★★★)