If you listen to comedy podcasts, you have probably heard Casey Wilson, and particularly June Diane Raphael. In particular, recently you may have heard them discussing their film Ass Backwards and the tale of toil that was its creation. The two co-wrote it, and co-star in it, and the movie dealt with financing issues and long stretches of uncertainty and all the vagaries that one often finds in the world of independent film. However, they persevered, and they’ve brought Ass Backwards into the world. They should be commended for that. Of course, just because a movie is a triumph of the human spirit does not necessarily make it good. Still, they should be credited for all their hard work in creating what was a pet, perhaps even dream, project of theirs. Also, for creating a movie that begins with a rear shot of two women with their pants down relieving themselves.
Despite this opening scene, Ass Backwards is not terribly raunchy, per se. Nor is it a gross-out film or a lewd series of bizarre events. Instead, it a road-trip buddy comedy. The buddies just happen to also be vain idiots with little to no substance in their lives.
As children, Kate Fenner (Raphael, this country’s foremost female Cillian Murphy impersonator) and Chloe West (Wilson) were in a beauty pageant, where they failed spectacularly. Life is not going well for them in the present. Oh, they talk a big game, but in reality they have, essentially, no work, and they are not making ends meet in New York. Then, they get a letter inviting them back to compete in the 50th anniversary of their hometown pageant. They decide to go—events conspire to make that an easy decision for them—with the intention of winning this time around.
The movie follows them as they get involved in all sorts of hi-jinx. As these movies tend to do, Ass Backwards becomes a series of sketches starring Kate and Chloe, a dynamic duo of dumbness. Some of these bits hit. Some of them miss. The movie is a tight 86 minutes, including credits, but while it doesn’t lag, it’s also pretty tepid, lacking any spring in its step. (Part of the issue may be that the main characters, while not exactly one note, don’t have a lot of depth, either.)
During the duo’s trip home, the film’s treatment of the characters swerves toward an effort to make them, if not likable, at least pitiable. This is problematic because nothing that has gone before supports this depiction. The film veers again as it reaches its climax, though this time, at least, it’s with good effect—the actual beauty pageant is easily the best part of the movie, a truly hilarious set piece.
Ass Backwards is a decent little comedy. It’s a little slapdash, a little flimsy, and doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be at times, but it’s good to see Raphael and Wilson get the chance to finally carry something for once. And at the very least, the end of the film rewards viewers who have weathered all of the unevenness that has gone before.
Director: Chris Nelson
Writer: June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson
Starring: June Diane Raphael, Casey Wilson
Release Date: Nov. 8, 2013