Never Goin’ Back is a new release from every film fan’s favorite independent studio, A24. The story revolves around two high school dropouts named Angela (Maia Mitchell of The Fosters fame) and Jessie (newcomer Camila Morrone) who plan on going to the beach to celebrate Jessie’s birthday. However, a robbery at their place somehow leads to the girls’ arrest and now they have to keep their jobs as diner waitresses while also needing the money to pay their rent. Never Goin’ Back only opened at two theaters and I just so happened to live near one of them. Too bad the movie I saw was not that good.
On a technical level, Never Goin’ Back resembles yet another indie movie. Behind the camera is first-time writer/director Augustine Frizzell who is the wife of independent filmmaker David Lowery, and I could tell. Nothing about the direction or cinematography struck me as different or special, especially compared to other laidback coming-of-age flicks. The best I can say about Frizzell’s direction is that she follows two under-aged girls with certain sensibility and that she makes whatever small Texas town the movie takes place in feel real. I was more impressed with the editing, specifically a scene transition showing the girls on their way to work. The movie’s soundtrack is also worth mentioning. At first, I thought Sarah Jaffe only composed some musical compositions that I did not notice while watching the movie but apparently, she is a singer-songwriter who also contributed original songs that I actually liked.
Performances are where Never Goin’ Back shines brightest. Mitchell and Morrone are singlehandedly the best parts of this movie. They are having so much fun and their chemistry is top-notch. I did have one issue with Morrone’s portrayal but that probably had more to do with the direction given than the actress herself. On the other hand, I was not so big on their characters. Angela and Jessie are two girls who hate their job and love to get high. They are barely interchangeable. In comparison, a weird character such as Lady Bird is sweet enough to make me want to hang out with her; Angela and Jesse are so unintelligent and ill-behaved that I cannot see myself hanging out with them. Kyle Mooney from Saturday Night Live plays the perverted roommate of Jessie’s brother Dustin (Joan Allen) who owns the house they all live in and he was funnier than I expected. Speaking of which, Dustin and his two friends Ryan (Matthew Holcomb) and Tony (Kendal Smith) were among my least favorite parts of this movie. They were so annoying to the point where I started to lose interest whenever they were on screen.
The screenplay of Never Goin’ Back is where most of my issues come in. IMDb labels the movie as a drama, but it is way too lighthearted to be a drama. Moreover, much of it was not all that funny. I do not remember laughing much throughout and I could tell that I was not having as good of a time as the two annoying women sitting behind me who were laughing hysterically. Frizzell also betrays the supposed realism with several stupid moments. There were still some moments that were entertaining to watch. One example is the girls going to stoner party while trying not to get high. I wish the whole movie was that fun. Never Goin’ Back also features some questionable messages for the few adolescent girls who end up seeing it. The movie is only 85 minutes and it feels so much longer especially towards the end.
Verdict: 1.5 out of 5
Never Goin’ Back may appeal to some sort of audience but not me. Outside of the leads, there’s not much truly special or noteworthy about this movie. I’m sorry to say but this movie is an indie that is not worth supporting in theaters.