Review by Bears Fonte
I’m not usually a fan of stoner comedies but Augustine Frizzell’s new Sundance midnighter NEVER GOIN’ BACK succeeds where almost all other stoner comedies fail. In addition to having a plot that even a non-stoner can appreciate (the quest for a birthday beach vacation), the film also features great well developed characters right down to the next door neighbor who has two lines.
Angela and Jessie are two waitresses who may or may not sleep together stuck at a diner in Fort Worth. Their life kind of sucks but they have each other and their friendship is what gets them through the minutiae their day — well, that and a lot of drugs. But when one of them is days away from their 17th birthday they decide to celebrate by going to Galveston. The only problem is they spend their rent money on the vacation and then have to work 10 shifts in one week to make up the rent money. Unfortunately, events quickly spiral out of control, leaving the girls in jail for 48 hours, out of a job and with no way to pay the rent.
In addition to truly charming performances by Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone the film also features the incredible, talent of Kyle Mooney who plays the creepy roommate that no one likes and everyone takes advantage of and a trio of would be thugs in Jessie’s brother and his buddies. Jessie and Angela have the best of intentions for the whole film. Sure they’ll go to parties and use illicit drugs but they have every intention of getting to work on time. The problems really begin when one of the brother’s buddies shows up at 7 a.m. to rob the place. When the cops investigate and find their room full of drugs, the rest of the film becomes a battle for the girls to wash their uniforms, take a shower, take a shit, and to keep their jobs. The funniest scene has to be their final discussion with their manager after they have accidentally eaten cookies made with weed batter.
I am a sucker for good structure so one of the things I truly loved about NEVER GOIN’ BACK is every single character seems to have a first act, second act, and third act, even minor characters that you think you will never see again payoff by the end of the film. The film is consistently funny without depending on one-liners. The humor comes from the characters and their situation. It seems odd that I should have to mention that because that’s called good screenwriting, but it is actually really rare especially in a midnighter film that you have any characters that you can even talk about at the end of the film. Never Goin’ Back is bursting with a cornucopia of creative degenerates cruising their way through life. Even the café managers and cops, people in a position of Authority come off as lovable fuck ups. I also have to give a shout out to the really clever music supervision, especially the use of the Barry Manilow classic ‘Mandy’ possibly my favorite love song written to a dog.
In fact, my only critical comment on the film at all is that I didn’t really feel like it belonged to the midnighter section here at Sundance unless it’s getting in for shit and fart humor – which it does quite effectively. That being said, I feel like this film belonged the Next section because Frizzell’s voice truly does capture the next generation. NEVER GOIN’ BACK is a brash battle cry of disenfranchised and directionless youth. This is a sure-fire festival circuit hit this year, Do not miss it when it comes through your town.