The greatest charm of Augustine Frizzell’s comedy Never Goin’ Back is the film’s relishing and normalization of the “grossness” inherent to bodies, particularly the bodies of teenage girls. Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone), two happy-go-lucky diner waitresses, are young and beautiful to be sure, but, for much of the film, the girls’ bodies are controlled by their baser functions.
They sweat in the Texas heat after walking forever to get to the bus stop. They get sticky from syrup poured on them by their customers. They shit after holding it in during a two-day stint in jail. They vomit from the stench.
While the film plays with gross-out humor, it’s not at the expense of Angela and Jessie’s dignity or to say something as uninteresting (or patronizing) as “girls can be gross, too”; in fact, Never Goin’ Back does not ask to see them as gross. The film normalizes each of these bodily functions, especially for bodies that are highly objectified—both in real life and on screen. Of course teenage girls sweat and vomit and shit. In objectifying the bodies of young women, we often rob them of their bodily autonomy, erasing the functions that make them human.
Early in the film, a neighbor, increasingly frustrated by Angela and Jessie’s snappy, innuendo-laced responses to her concern about their unkempt lawn, snaps at the two, “Y’all are dirty, dirty girls.”
They laugh it off. Maybe they are dirty—in every sense of the word. What’s wrong with that?
Mary Bolton is an Atlanta-based essayist focusing on film and television, with bylines at Reel Honey, Screen Queens, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Film Era, and more.