In Never Goin' Back, shit — metaphorically and literally — is hitting the fan. The unapologetically raunchy comedy about two 16-year-old girls in Texas trying to get to the beach is like Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle meets Superbad with more drugs, closer friendship, and more poop jokes. It's one of the most unique comedies of the year, and that's largely thanks to the film's stars, Cami Morrone and Maia Mitchell, and its writer-director (in her feature film debut), Augustine Frizzell.
Jessie (Morrone) and Angela (Mitchell) aren't just best friends and roommates — they're soulmates. The teens sleep in the same bed, work together (at an iHop-esque diner in the middle of a small, hot, and humid Texas town), snort rails of coke on a yard-long glass table, accidentally eat edibles, and mistakenly get arrested. They don't go to high school, they don't have any adults telling them what to do (save for their guardian angel of a boss, Roderick, played by Marcus M. Mauldin), and they don't live by any hard set of rules. The only thing on their mind is going to Galveston for Jessie's 17th birthday. After they're arrested because of a hilariously botched robbery by a friend of Jessie's brother (a wannabe drug dealer, played by ), their big beach trip gets farther and farther out of reach — but they'll do anything to make it there.
If the drug use, cursing, and lack of parental guidance seem totally exaggerated, then consider this: The story is based on Frizzell's own teenage years when she lived in Panama City Beach, Florida, with her brother, his girlfriend, and a best friend of her own. "The characters are a mixture of my personality traits, and my friend at the time’s personality traits," Frizzell told Refinery29 during a joint interview with Morrone. "Spring break in Panama City Beach, there is something so incredible about it — this level of freedom and lack of inhibition that feels so fucking good. But as soon as all of the spring breakers leave, and you are left in Panama City Beach, it is so depressing."
Watching the film, one might be reminded of 2003's Thirteen, another seminal movie about good friends making bad decisions. Thirteen was also based on true events and cowritten by one its stars, Nikki Reed (a teenager at the time), with writer-director Catherine Hardwicke. But where Thirteen pierced through the facade of an innocent teen's (Evan Rachel Wood) coming-of-age story, Never Goin' Back gives you a more light-hearted look into one week in the lives of its characters.
That mixture of freedom, despair, and pure adolescent energy is what fuels Never Goin' Back, and what makes it feel so refreshing as a woman-led comedy in an industry that largely doesn't let women be gross and funny. Refinery29 spoke to Frizzell and Morrone, who, in between laughs, explained the importance of female buddy comedies, and why society is so afraid to admit that girls can be gross, too.
Refinery29: I love that you're reclaiming dirty humor. I joke that I like really "frat boy chic" movies, which I consider to be elevated stoner humor. Pineapple Express is my ultimate, and Superbad. Cami what was your first reaction when you read the script?
Cami Morrone: "It was my first time actually seeing something with a female leading that had raunchy behavior and vulgar language in a mostly male-dominated world of comedy. I thought it was cool to show these girls who are badass and cuss and get stoned, but are still just cool girls."
They seemed cool, but they also seemed like good people. A lot of “cool girls” come off as bad or mean, and you think, “Wow, maybe some of that bad stuff should happen to you.” Did you know that this was Augustine’s life, or is that something that you found out after?
C.M.: "I didn’t know it was based on Augustine’s life until I Skyped with her prior to going in and meeting her, which I think was my second audition or my chemistry read. So I actually didn’t know, but it made it more fun. I thought, 'This woman looks so innocent — she doesn’t look like she’d do drugs.' She is a mom now, and I was like, 'This is the opposite of your life.' It is kind of a fun little twist in the narrative."
Augustine, does that happen to you a lot? Are people shocked that you lived like this when they see the movie?
Augustine Frizzell: "Yeah, totally. There were a lot of things that I didn’t even get to put in just because they were even more outrageous than the stuff that is in there. There was stuff that we [as teens] would do that felt too outrageous to film. You know how they say, 'Real life is crazier than movies?' That is the case for a lot of stuff that happened."
You bring up a really good point about why there aren’t more stories like this. Is it because the people wanting to tell them aren’t given the right resources and platform to do so? Is that something you are keeping in mind on different projects going forward?
A.F.: "I like both. I do have a film I am attached to that is a big studio comedy and stars a man [Editor’s note: I would learn later that this film is likely Stoned Alone, starring Ryan Reynolds], and it is not socially relevant in that way. It is about marijuana legalization, but it is a big studio comedy. I respond to that, but I also felt that that is one of many things I want to do. The other things that I respond to are stories of well-rounded female characters, and women who are making a change — or not even making a change, just characters that are written in a three-dimensional way, whether they are flawed or hateable. But on a broader scale, eventually one of my lifelong goals is to help people from communities or lower socioeconomic areas to tell their stories."
What exactly about Cami and Maia made them perfect for their parts? And which character do each of you feel closest to?
C.M.: [Starts talking, then laughs] "I heard my name and thought you were going to ask me a question, but this one is all you Augustine."
A.F.: [Laughs] "You gotta own it! But in all honesty, there was a certain hesitance to cast Cami because she is very attractive. Maia, too, but I saw what she could do acting-wise. And so with Cami, I was a little hesitant, [but] then I talked to her and she was charismatic and just had this incredible energy. That was step one, and then I was like, 'Oh God, please make her audition be good!'...Maia, same thing, we just had a rapport and she was fantastic."
What female relationships in movies and TV did you draw inspiration from?
A.F.: "Thelma & Louise, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, Broad City. I think Broad City is such a great portrayal of female friends. One of the things they have in Broad City is an unrelenting commitment to each other, and I thought that was so refreshing. I wrote the first version of the movie before Broad City came out, and when I was rewriting it and saw the show I was like, 'That is what I want!' They were portraying this level of grossness that I had never seen onscreen, so I was influenced by that. I mustered up the confidence, thanks to them and the way that they portrayed women, to write this the way that I did it."
Why are there not more female buddy comedies? Guys have “bromance,” a brandable word for their buddy comedies, but we don’t.
C.M.: "I think people are afraid to show that side of young females, or they don’t know how to do it right. This movie is based on real life to a certain extent, [which] made it feel authentic. When people tried in the past, it may have felt not as organic."
A.F.: "I think it’s the same reason why we don’t have that many female filmmakers. It starts at the top and works its way down. When you have access and you have support, you are more likely to do it, and then it’s a chain reaction. Any female comedy that comes out is judged so harshly. There is a wild double standard between male-led comedies and female-led comedies, and every once in a while one slips through and really gets the praise it deserves. I honestly don’t know why there aren’t more. There should be."
Do you think it’s because we literally think women to be clean and sanitized?
A.F.: "Completely. It has been the same way with female sexuality. I think the society feels that these things aren’t appropriate. For example, I was just going through approval for a new show that I just directed to get a man’s boner, an erect penis, having a condom put on it. It was like, 'Sure, no problem.' As soon as we wanted to show a vagina in a birthing scene, it required like three extra steps of approval because they had never had one on the network before. And they were, 'Uhh... can we show a vagina?' It was such an unexpected thing for them. We got the approval. I am so proud that we have a full-on shot of a vagina, which I hope makes it into the final cut. It was eye-opening to see how different the standard is for sexuality and women or body humor and women. [Like in this movie] the foul language the girls say, people think they’re trying to just be like the boys, but they aren’t trying to be like the boys — this is how they talk. This is how real girls talk. Some women who see this are like, 'I don’t talk like that.' Okay, that’s not how you are, but that is how I am, and that is how a lot of women that I know are. We just don’t see it on film."
This probably the best running poop joke that I have seen in a long time.
A.F.: "Thank you! People are like, 'It’s filled with so much potty humor!' But it’s really just one poop joke we just bring it up a couple times so you don’t forget she hasn’t gone. There’s a similar thing in Dumb & Dumber, and it’s just so funny how differently it is received.
What do you see next in your career? More comedies, more dramas?
C.M.: "I am kind of torn, not that I have to make a decision, but I found myself really excited to do Never Goin’ Back because I think that comedy is something that is such a part of my life. I think that it is so much easier to do a comedy — your days are so much brighter and more fun. But I am about to star in a role that is pretty heavy and intense and hardcore. I’m excited for that in a different way, because it will be a challenge. My ideal career would be to do stuff that is comedic and shows my personality, and then to also be able to be able to carry those harder roles that have a little more depth to them."
I hope you do make more comedies.
C.M.: "We need to do the sequel, We’re Comin’ Back. Or We Changed Our Minds, We Are Going Back. Coming out next year."
Interview has been edited and condensed.