Friendship is the key underlying theme in writer-director Augustine Frizzell’s funny, raunchy and amazing Never Goin’ Back now in theaters.
I love a good, solid underdog film and that is exactly what writer-director Augustine Frizzell’s debut, Never Goin’ Back is. Premiering at Sundance, where A24 picked up the distribution rights, the comedy – drama runs a lean 85 minutes, just enough time for our protagonists to get in trouble and figure a way out.
Friends and roommates Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) are typical adolescents: they want to party first and take care of responsibilities later. They do have jobs as waitresses to put a roof over their heads. Their friendship is perhaps the most endearing quality of the characters and of the movie.
Their friendship is so strong that Jessie uses their rent money to get Angela a trip to the beach to chill for a week. Not thinking beyond the moment, they realize they have no money for rent and face eviction. Oh, they were robbed too.
To get them over the hurdle of basically having nothing, their friends Brandon (Kyle Mooney), Dustin (Joel Allen) and Tony (Kendal Smith) try to come up with ideas about how they can cover the rent. The acrid smoke pouring from their combined thought process is from the weed, not the thinking.
The resultant fallout is nothing short of being painfully hilarious. So much so, that my stomach still hurts from the laughter. None of the comedy is lowbrow; there are consequences for their actions which dominoes into more hilarious situations. It reminded me of TVs ‘2 Broke Girls’ and Superbad – friendship is key to surviving the world.
One of the film’s best moments is when Angela and Jessie goad an older couple in a grocery store about the merits of sampling food. Angela and Jessie just lay into the couple, but their retorts are nothing short of breathtaking hilarity. Their points made, they eventually move on. It’s not the last time they will meet each other though.
Frizzell’s character development is strong, as is her storytelling, fueled by her passion. Even though we are dropped in to the middle of Angela and Jessie’s misadventures, we gain enough over the 85 minutes to learn to love them for who they are, even if they are crass and rude.
That passion extends into the story flow. Frizzell co-edited the film with Courtney Ware. Comedies today seem to operate on a series of skits strung together by a threadbare storyline. Frizzell’s story works well because the film is one big skit, moving from misadventure to misadventure, using friendship as its base theme.
There were points in the story where the friendship felt a little too clingy, but they stuck together through thick and thin and that was enough for me to set my misgivings aside.
Never Goin’ Back earned Ms. Frizzell SXSW’s Gamechanger award. The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t try to expand its reach beyond its comfort level and within that, we get characters and situations that work brilliantly. A24 was very smart to recognize this female – driven film to audiences.
The world needs more films like Augustine Frizzell’s Never Goin’ Back.
Now in theaters, Never Goin’ Back is rated R by the MPAA.