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Never Goin' Back
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by Jay Seaver

"Genuine dumb fun."
4 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2018: An enjoyably crude comedy about two people whose simple-if-ill-advised plan for a weekend at the beach is detailed by a bunch of disasters both of their own and others' making, "Never Goin' Back" is a bit of a standout right now because they don't necessarily make a lot of these movies about teenage girls. And while it's noteworthy for being unusual now, it will probably age well because it's genuinely funny throughout.

The girls are Jessie (Camila Morrone) and Angela (Maia Mitchell), high-school dropouts sharing an apartment in Fort Worth with Jessie's older brother Dustin (Joel Allen) and his friend Brandon (Kyle Mooney). Jessie's seventeenth birthday is next week, and Angela's just announced they'll take a trip to Galveston to celebrate. The thing is, she's paid with their rent money, which is not necessarily a problem, since they've got double shifts at the diner all week. That doesn't necessarily take into account Dustin's plan to make some money selling drugs with his new buddy Tony (Kendal Smith), which could easily go south because, even when this group isn't high, none of them are really that bright.

Dumb folks are usually the sidekicks or supporting characters in a movie because it is not easy to move a story forward in a satisfying way based upon a bunch of decisions that don't exactly make sense. Writer/director Augustine Frizzell gives Jessie & Angela goals that at least seem reasonable on a certain level, even if they're almost certainly doomed, and there's a certain mild delusion that the audience can sympathize with - that even if what they're doing is unlikely to work, what they want, whether it be a couple days off or just a toilet Jessie isn't afraid to sit on, is not unreasonable, and you can kind of get behind the world being fair.

Plus, the two lead actresses are an appealing pair, especially considering the way Frizzell has them playing off each other. Maia Mitchell gets the obviously funny part as Angela; she gets the more manic delivery and most of the initial bad ideas. She pounces on lines and attacks supporting characters, establishing dominance in a scene very quickly. Camila Morrone's Jessie is less assertive (although she's never a shy shrinking violet), more likely to give the shocked reaction and making the moments where she does explode even funnier. Both are able to do ridiculous things with a straight face, and that they're at slightly different tempos makes their banter more fun. The story is also built to show what they bring to each other; that Jessie is the one who has the hard time resisting temptation and is likely saved by Angela's hyper-alertness is a more balanced take than usual.

They're supported by a fun, entertaining dumb group throughout, as the boys they have to deal with never have even the scrap of a plan that they do (Kendal Smith is a special delight as a guy just unreasonably delighted to have someone call him a friend). The jokes are often played to the rafters, but there's also a sense that you've got to laugh loudly, because it's the only way to deal. Jessie & Angela don't have much, and Frizzell doesn't allow them to retreat into any sort of fantasy - even the jokes about them getting high are about them being out of it rather than seeing the world as a more colorful, happy place - but instead walks a careful line about finding the absurdity in how life can beat you down in a lot of little ways without making it so overbearingly miserable that one can't find it funny.

These folks may not be very smart, but even as Frizzell gets a lot of laughs from their stumbling into walls, she saves any real cruelty for those who truly deserves it. "Never Goin' Back" is not always an easy movie for some to love - it's tacky and gross and doesn't bother with trying to do anything like getting Angela & Jessie back in school - but it's got very little bloat and even the crude humor is built more around being funny than being nasty.

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originally posted: 06/12/18 23:24:35
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2018 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2018 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

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  03-Aug-2018 (R)
  DVD: 30-Oct-2018


  DVD: 30-Oct-2018

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