It’s a common tradition in the all-girl sleepover to lie down, stare blankly at the ceiling, and talk about the future. It’s a utopian view of the future, of course, in which you have your dream job, a giant house, and you can go on those luxury vacations usually reserved for celebrities and millionaires. Texas BFFs Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Cami Morrone) have dreams of their own: waste time away on the beach at Galveston. That all seems rather quaint, but for high school dropouts living paycheck-to-paycheck waiting tables at a diner—a little getaway means a lot.
When Angela splashes their rent money towards the Galveston trip for Jessie’s birthday, the girls have to scrape together enough money to cover the costs (Jessie’s drug dealer brother/roommate is no help). Simple enough—they’ve claimed every shift for the next week—but instead, the besties fall down a slippery slope of unbelievable schemes and shenanigans that are as raunchy as the best of them.
From the opening scene in which Angela draws a penis on Jessie’s face while she’s sleeping, Never Goin’ Back is unabashedly dirty and unfiltered. For these two friends who are attached at the hip, “dude” and the middle finger are the most common words in their vocabulary. Their drug-fueled antics will probably raise a few eyebrows at their sheer stupidity, but as someone who was, and still kind of is, a dumb teenager, it felt relatable in that this could probably pass off as a crazy story you hear in passing at a house party. Never Goin’ Back is delightfully fun if you can leave your judgment and morality at the door.
Stoner comedies about very dim-witted people are usually a boys club. Augustine Frizzell’s debut is a refreshing reappropriation of the genre through a female lens. The film is full of its genre cliches (the girls eat brownies from an unlabelled box and…you’ve guessed it), but Never Goin’ Back is not one of those movies where women are the mouthpieces for dialogue obviously written by men—this is a female-fronted movie. They stand up to sexist men and have silly conversations that every girl has gone through themselves. Angela and Jessie are something of a pair of small-time feminist heroes—never apologising for being their authentic, foul-mouthed selves.
Maia Mitchell (shedding off her Teen Beach Movie image in the deliberately shocking way that every former Disney star does) and Cami Morrone have electrifying chemistry—they’re completely believable as best friends/soulmates who are so close that they become indistinguishable. If I was going to complain, I wish the film just made the full commitment and made them the lesbian powerhouse couple they were destined to be. They sleep in the same bed, hold hands, and there are several quips at how often they make out with each other—so how hard is it to just make them gay?
Never Goin’ Back bristles with a spirited, playful energy that translates to its visual style. The film is filled with moments of fun visual gags and camera tricks, but it never shoves its style in your face. It’s this vibrant liveliness that keeps the viewer on board even when the film descends into cheap, gross-out humour. The film can sometimes become too light in tone, poking fun at situations that only happen to people on the bottom of the economic totem pole, but the film is as carefree as its protagonists. When you’re young and having fun, who has the time to think about the dull normality of everyday life?
For the rest of our Sundance: London coverage, click here