Landing at a trim 85 minutes, Never Goin’ Back is nonetheless a meaty narrative about two girls who whether their storms with aplomb, bringing a healthy share of mayhem in the process. Directed and penned by Augustine Frizzell, the flick is powered by standout work from leads Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone. The balls out final act also took me by surprise, which is a great thing.
Angela (Maia Mitchell) surprises her BFF and roomie Jessie (Camila Morrone) with a surprise trip to Galveston, Texas. The money for the excursion, however, came from their share of the rent money and now they’ll need to pull double shifts at the local diner to make ends meet.
Jessie’s wannabe drug dealing brother Dustin (Joel Allen) and a pervy dude named Brandon (Brigsby Bear’s Kyle Mooney, funny as always) round out the roommate situation. Since all of these individuals are lacking in common sense, the proverbial s**t immediately hits the fan, with Angela and Jessie caught in the crossfire.
To be fair, these girls are instrumental at bringing chaos to their door. Whether it’s the actual ingestion of a powerful pot brownie or hatching a cockamamie plan to make their money back, Angela and Jessie are mired in trouble.
Credit goes to Frizzell for not turning Never Goin’ Back into a predictable coming of age tale wherein the protagonists mature thanks to an extremely tragic (and teachable) moment. Instead, the story is inspired by Frizzell’s own youth, giving this engaging and surprisingly unpredictable tale a bit more resonance and reality.
Though Mitchell and Morrone are beautiful young women, their characters are also not portrayed via a sexualized lens (too often, this pov is forgiven thanks to its teen genre confines, but Angela and Jessie are fully fleshed out individuals). My minor complaint is Never Goin’ Back takes a slight dip whenever Mitchell and Monroe are not commanding the frame, as the respective adventures of Dustin and his ne’er do well buddies, though slightly amusing, feels more like storytelling filler.
That being said, Never Goin’ Back delivers a knockout third chapter as Jessie and Angela, now with their backs against the wall, desperate to gain some kind of traction in their life. What ensues is a raunchy incident that some viewers may think crosses the line to absurdity, but sometimes, in life and cinema, you simply have to go for it. Augustine Frizzell, Maia Mitchell, and Camila Morrone may look as if they’re here just for the s**ts and giggles, but don’t be fooled – Never Goin’ Back is an engaging, oftentimes hilarious look at a couple of girls who’ve gone wild yet refuse to surrender.
Never Goin’ Back is now playing in select theaters, but opens in wider release August 10. For theaters, go here.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
***I also interviewed Maia Mitchell for Hot Summer Nights and during the talk she briefly discussed her work in Never Goin’ Back: