Augustine Frizzell Reworks the Teen Comedy With Raunchy, Girl-Driven ‘Never Goin’ Back’
Two best friends make it their mission to go to the beach in the teen comedy “Never Goin’ Back.” Rising stars Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone star as Angela and Jessie, best friends who make the most of their less-than-ideal lives. The teen girls work as servers at a pancake house and live with Jessie’s drug dealer brother, Dustin (Joel Allen) and his slacker pal Brandon (Kyle Mooney) outside of Dallas. As a surprise, Angela books a trip to the beach to celebrate Jessie’s birthday, a thoughtful gesture, even if the beach is only in nearby Galveston. Only problem is, she used their rent money, and her plan to have them work extra shifts is threatened by a series of hilarious mishaps.
“Never Goin’ Back” is the feature debut from filmmaker and Dallas native Augustine Frizzell. A former IHOP waitress who lived with her best friend as a young woman, Frizzell put many incidents from her real life into the screenplay, including a robbery and a stint in jail.
“That was a very interesting, unique experience,” Frizzell recalled with a laugh to Entertainment Voice when asked about her time in lock-up for shoplifting. “It wasn’t the same as it was in the movie. It was a lot worse. There was a strip search, that was like, ‘Spread your cheeks and bend over.’”
Despite some of the serious situations the heroines find themselves, “Never Goin’ Back” is, overall, a fun film with a carefree feel. Frizzell credits her leading ladies, Mitchell and Morrone, and their infectious energies for making it work.
“I brought them in in-person, and when they got together, it was unlike anything that I had seen,” she said of their auditions. “Individually, they were fantastic, but a lot of the actresses who read were fantastic, but there was nothing like that chemistry between the two of them.”
Also making “Never Goin’ Back” work well is the fact that it manages to avoid cliches. There is no struggle between the girls; the conflict comes from outside of their friendship and the world at large. According to Frizzell, she learned a lesson about triteness after her first attempt at making the film didn’t turn out as she had envisioned.
Frizzell explained, “One of the main reasons why I don’t think it worked was because I had given into these notes from outside sources like, ‘You need to have this dramatic thing.’ I didn’t really want to, but I did it, because I was inexperienced and was working from a place of self-doubt… When I decided to remake the movie, I decided I didn’t want any of that… I didn’t want to fall into that cliche where they get into a fight. ‘Are they going to be friends after this?’ You always know they are.”
Despite their being in a living situation that could easily be classified as dangerous and their status as high school dropouts, it was important to Frizzell that Angela and Jessie not be objects of pity, but rather viewed the same as, say, middle-class teens in a Judd Apatow comedy.
“I think there’s a real double standard with people who don’t have money. It’s hard to excuse their behavior, and I think that happens a lot when we see people who don’t have the best life circumstances and are not doing things to better themselves, we are judging them in a harsher way.”
Frizzell points to how people on public assistance are harshly judged when they purchase non-essentials such as alcohol.
“I think that’s so fucked up and so unfair, but it’s something we’ve been conditioned to do, and finding that balance was really hard, because I know people see these girls and they’re like, ‘Okay, they need to be acting better.’ Whereas, we see the boy in “Superbad” doing dumb shit and making bad decisions, and laughing about it…. It was really tough, but I tried to keep the stakes real, but low, so that we could find those places to laugh with them and not judge too harshly.”
Since it’s premiere at Sundance this past January, several reviews of “Never Goin’ Back” have focused on the supposed promiscuity of Angela and Jessie, although there are zero sex scenes in the film, but it is implied that the young woman are intimate with each other.
“I wonder,” Frizzell responded when asked why some have made a big deal about their sexualities. “That’s one of those things that I was very cognizant of making the movie, because it is based on my real-life situation, and my best friend and I did have sex with each other and were very intimate, but we weren’t a couple, per se. We dated other people.”
While Frizzell did consider making Angela and Jessie a lesbian couple, she decided that she didn’t want to detract from the friendship theme.
“It would be really easy, and it would be great to have representation in the film, but than I thought, ‘But that’s not what they are.’ It doesn’t take away from their friendship, but there’s something about a tried and true friend that’s different from someone you’re dating.”
As this is a very personal film for Frizzell, it was important to her to avoid putting the actresses in any scenario that could be seen as fueling some male fantasy.
“I thought long and hard about showing them kiss,” she said.” But as soon as you add that in, then you get pounded even harder for showing the fantasy of what two attractive girls do in their bedroom. …I wanted to be able to show two typically attractive girls having an [intimate relationship] without it being something looked upon as the male gaze.”
Still, Angela and Jessie serve as fantasy fodder for at least one man, Brandon, who isn’t shy about his desire to join them in their bedroom antics. As skeevy as this character is, Mooney does an excellent job of tapping into his vulnerability, as the girls and Dustin attempt to use the lowly sandwich artist for their own purposes.
“He is amazing. He is way more reserved than I thought,” Frizzell said of Mooney. “I expected him to come in and just be like, ‘Jokes, jokes, jokes.’ He is really sincere and just a super sweet person, and brilliantly hilarious. Everything he says and does, you’re laughing at it. He could just be talking about pouring a glass of water, and it’s funny, unintentionally.”
Next up, Frizzell will work alongside Ryan Reynolds for “Stoned Alone,” an adult remake of the classic “Home Alone.” She is also set to co-executive produce an direct the pilot for the much-anticipated HBO series “Euphoria.”
“Never Goin’ Back” opens Aug. 3 in New York and Los Angeles, expanding to more select cities Aug. 10.