Review: Never Goin’ Back

This seems to be the season in Japan for delayed releases of American comedies set in Texas and centered on female characters. Though I think Support the Girls, which came out here two months ago, is a better movie, Never Goin’ Back is perhaps more distinctive simply because it was directed by a woman, Augustine Frizzell, meaning its take on the protagonists is more naturally funny without sacrificing the emotional investment. Unlike in Support the Girls, the girls here are really girls in that BFFs Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) should be in high school but they’ve already dropped out and are working full time as waitresses while also sharing a house. They live more or less paycheck to paycheck, but their preternatural free-spiritedness means they also live exactly the way they want—it’s why they dropped out, and the film doesn’t judge them for it at all. 

The plot is very simple, and Frizzell uses it as a kind of frame with which to elaborate the socioeconomic circumstances that rule Angela and Jessie’s life. Jessie’s 17th birthday is coming up and Angela wants to treat her to a holiday on the beautiful beaches of Galveston. Since they live in Fort Worth, that wouldn’t seem to be a big deal, but they’re living on minimum wage, so it is a big deal, and the storyline involves their various machinations to make the trip a reality, which turns out to be more difficult than Angela imagined. For one thing, Angela has already blown their combined savings on transportation and reservations, leaving them without enough money to pay the rent that month. Though they seem confident they can scrounge the cash from their roommates, those roommates, being male and barely of drinking age, are patently unreliable. One of them is Jessie’s brother, Dustin (Joel Allen), a would-be weed kingpin who in the opening scene is robbed by some competitors. The other is Brandon (Kyle Mooney), a fairly gentle but addle-brained horndog who is an easy touch. 

Dustin’s sudden insolvency makes the household’s rent emergency that much more acute, and the rest of the movie, which finds not only Dustin’s hapless crew being threatened endlessly, but the girls getting fired and then thrown in jail, is what used to be referred to as a “madcap romp,” though one that is qualified by the aforementioned socioeconomic circumstances, not to mention the kind of loose, profane comic style that has dominated these kinds of youth movies since Superbad. A lot of this sort of thing is stretched uncomfortably thin—the humor derived from white dudes trading in Black-identified vernacular gets old fast, and while Frizzell sends up her redneck milieu with care and smarts, the various schemes concocted to deal with the crises at hand seem over-determined and often detract from the casual likability of the various characters, including Angela and Jessie. Frizzell could have just made a great comedy about their affecting friendship without all the narrative huffing and puffing, but, then, who would go see it? 

Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Chanter Hibiya (050-6868-5001).

Never Goin’ Back home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2018 Muffed Up LLC

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