Review| Never Goin' Back

Review| Never Goin' Back

Adulting is hard. Jessie (Camila Morrone) and Angela (Maia Mitchell) put that into sharp focus in their small Texas town as they coast from one high to the next and try to get by working at their diner jobs. Of course it doesn’t help that they’ve both dropped out of high school or have any healthy adults in their life to guide them. The only thing best friends Angela and Jessie have to look forward to is their trip to Galveston for Jessie’s birthday. In an opening that sets the tone for the rest of the film, Angela wakes Jessie up to tell her that she’s blown their rent money to pay for a rental on the beach (and also that she’s drawn a penis on her face). All they have to do is work 10 shifts until Jessie’s birthday. Easy right?
The girls live an alarmingly dysfunctional existence living paycheck to paycheck and putting up with Jessie’s aspiring drug dealer brother (Joel Allen) and horny roomate (Kyle Mooney). It’s rare that raunchy, stoner comedies are lead by two young girls, but first-time director, Augustine Frizzel, captures the genre well. You know because you’re cringing at every disastrous turn the girls’ lives takes. Frizzel lands some important genre tropes complete with catchy pop music, slow motion shots, and chaotic editing to reflect the girls’ story, but she doesn’t leave us feeling completely unsympathetic for the main characters. We get a small glimpse of how rough it’s been for them when see Jessie’s mom soliciting a man on the town street corner. Angela kids “don’t you want to say ‘hi’ to your mom?” while she’s getting picked up as a prostitute.
All the girls have are each other, and their bond is undeniable, they genuinely care about one another and want the best for each other. Even when they get busted for drug possession and end up in jail overnight, they reassure each other when they panic and hold hands through their jail cells. They are constantly trying to help the other rally to conquer their version of adulthood. Despite the fact that Jessie goes along with Angela’s half-brained schemes, she tries to hold things together – she even parents her brother at moments telling him “dealing is dangerous.” She seems genuinely concerned about losing their jobs and understands the consequences.
The film is punctuated with moments of humor, driven by idiocy. Kyle Mooney’s character is super creepy, constantly trying to get some action, but is perpetually blocked by his uncoolness. In spite of the cringing, it’s hard not to chuckle at the laughable moments focused on millennial woes like the girls’ inability to use the pay phone from their jail cell. Overall, we can understand the duo’s desire to escape their sad lives and dream about a trip to the beach, but it’s hard not to walk away feeling frustrated that they don’t take ownership for their mistakes or suffer any lasting consequences. The only useful advice they get is from their boss at the diner who tells them “you don’t want to end up like me. Go do something with your lives.”
In some ways their optimism and frivolity is admirable. Even when completely high they say “thank God I’m not sad inside” when comparing themselves to a coworker.  We want them to succeed, but do they learn anything valuable?
Given the right opportunity, the film could be a niche hit. It has some great moments, but you’ll likely walk away feeling that all you’ve witnessed are two sad characters who don’t actually learn the skills they need to survive, but maybe that’s the point? We can’t help but worry what their lives will become, but feel confused about their blissful escape at the end. Frizzel’s social commentary on today’s youth, captures that tension, but also doesn’t quite let us see the actual outcome of their decision making. I guess that’s what makes the fictional world of a movie an escape for us too.

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