And laugh and laugh and laugh.
2018 has been a pretty good year for comedies. There have been some stinkers, sure, as Tag was only so-so and The Spy Who Dumped Me didn’t fare too well (I’m hearing pretty bad things about The Happytime Murders, coming out this week, too).
On the flip side, though, there’s been a lot of surprises. Game Night, Blockers, Deadpool 2 and Crazy Rich Asians were all really funny, and the indie market has had some movies that at least have comedic elements that have really hit too; like Sorry To Bother You, Blackkklansman and Eighth Grade.
Yet, there is one movie that stands above them all. It's this little, hidden gem you might have never heard of but definitely need to see: Never Goin’ Back.
From A24 and director Augustine Frizzell (who played ‘Clara’s Wife Who is Writing a Book’ in A Ghost Story, I kid you not), Never Goin’ Back is the story of two high school dropouts who are living in a world that’s full of idiots.
To be fair, Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) might not have the highest IQ scores in the world, given the whole not finishing school thing.
Yet, compared to their roommates — Jessie’s brother Dustin (Joel Allen) and his buddy Brandon (Kyle Mooney) — they might as well be Albert Einstein.
Brandon, bless his poor soul, works down at the local sandwich shop and might be one of the most oblivious, incompetent humans walking on planet earth. He spends more time getting high and giving out free sandwiches to whoever asks for one than he does working. Dustin isn’t much better. He doesn’t *technically* have a job, as he’s always busy thinking of some preposterous way that he and his squad — Tony (Kendal Smith) and Ryan (Matthew Holcomb) — can make a quick buck.
Luckily, Angela and Jessie both have jobs. They wait tables down at the local diner for a boss, Roderick (Marcus Mauldin), who’s pretty forgiving of them whenever they sleep in or show up intoxicated.
Unluckily, they still kind of hate the job. They need it, of course, since they’re only 16-years-old and have no other way to pay for rent, but their coworkers — specifically Crystal (Atheena Frizzell) — suck and the customers are even worse.
That’s why Angela figures it’s about time the two of them have a break, as she books a vacation to the beach for Jessie’s 17th birthday.
The only problem is, that’s a lot of money and rent is due in just one week. They may have come up with a plan for how to afford it — they’re going to work every single shift for the next ten days — but it’s also asking a lot of them. This job really does suck, remember.
To make matters worse, Dustin’s schemes haven’t been paying off so well lately too (some inner-circle regarding a stolen TV is haunting the group), so he’s looking a bit short on this month’s rent too.
So, ultimately, this is a movie about everyone finding a way to get paid. And, hoo boy, is it funny.
Like, laughing from start to finish with tears in my eyes level of funny. I went in to Never Goin’ Back with next to no expectations, as I knew nothing about this movie apart from the fact that it was being released by A24. That’s a good sign, sure, but I’ve been burned by them in the past on movies I didn’t know much about — need I say more than How To Talk to Girls at Parties?
This time, it paid off, as the gags here all worked so well.
Not only is Never Goin’ Back great for the comedy, but there’s also some really interesting things going on under the surface of this one too. This is, primarily, a movie about female friendship and how these two manage to adapt to the world they’re living in. I really admire the way that Jessie and Angela were written, as the film never takes the cliché route of having them be best friends, only to have a big fight and realize something about themselves, eventually coming back together in the end.
That’s not this. Rather than being all sedimental and coming-of-age like, Never Goin’ Back is about what the bond between the two of them means to each other and how they’re going to use that to out-smart the people around them.
Being female and vulgar, they attract attention from a lot of creepy dudes. They’re wise enough to realize this, and then use it to their advantage — often getting what they want out of situations that most people would be extremely uncomfortable to be in.
It’s the type of thing that, say, your grandma would watch and not understand as it’s all handled really subtly. The movie plays on that fact itself too, as there’s an elderly character who instantly judges the way they talk and dress, creating an on-going back-and-forth that has a truly hilarious resolution.
There’s also something to be said about the way the world perceives high school dropouts as well. Again this is handled in a subtle manner, as there’s this one shot that I’m ultimately in love with as it involves the people who are eating at the diner when Jessie and Angela both show up high for a shift.
In the end, it’s really a love letter to those who maybe weren’t born into wealth or got the shorthand in life. Just because they don’t have fancy, white collar jobs doesn’t mean that their friendships and dreams are worthless. All Jessie and Angie want to do is run away together to the beach, and the simplicity in that is really kind of beautiful.
Of course, you need two talented actresses who are able to convey that. Frizzell found the perfect pair, as these two are stars in the making who I predict we’re going to see a lot more of in the future.
Dustin and his crew almost steal the entire movie though, as I was in giggling fits every time the three of them came on screen. The repeated joke about the stolen TV is something that really shouldn’t have work and would have gotten on my nerves in any other movie — but the execution is so perfect here that it made me laugh every single time that it was brought up.
I have only one tiny problem with the movie, that being the ending — and by that I mean literally the last twenty seconds. It seems like Never Goin’ Back is wrapping up perfectly as they’re fading to black and everything, but then they fade back in for one final scene. I understand the significance of it and why this scene was put in there, but I liked the mystery of not knowing what happened to the girls better than having the movie giving us a definite answer. Sometimes, ambiguity is a good thing.
That’s really pretty minor though, as Never Goin’ Back is one of, if not the biggest, surprise that 2018 has had to offer. I went in expecting nothing, I came out instantly wanting to see it again.
Watch the trailer for Never Goin’ Back here and then let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments below!
'Never Goin' Back' review: Get ready to laugh9