Sundance 2013 Review: Delusional But Hilarious ‘Ass Backwards’ Delivers the Laughs

By  · Published on January 24th, 2013

Kate (June Diane Raphael) and Chloe (Casey Wilson) have been best friends their entire lives, finishing each other’s sentences, sleeping in the same waterbed, they even have a catch phrase when introducing themselves to people (“Kate and Chloe! Her Chloe, me Kate. Kate and Chloe.”) It is endearing how the girls support each other unconditionally with positive affirmations and constantly reminding each other they are on the verge of greatness – Kate is the CEO of her own company! (Kate is an egg doner.) Chloe is on the verge of becoming a big star! (Chloe is a go-go dancer.) But unfortunately, Kate and Chloe are co-dependent messes who have no idea how far from greatness (or even acting their age) they truly are.

Despite living large in New York City, when the girls receive an invitation to return to their hometown’s beauty pageant circuit, you can tell they both want to go back and compete. Kate and Chloe came in dead last when they competed in the pageant as children and they believe this could be their chance to show everyone they are no longer losers. After getting evicted from their apartment (a minor set back!), the girls hit the open road and the hi-jinx hit the fast lane.

The girl’s friendship constantly endures, but as the drive starts to take a toll on the two, the cracks in their view of each other start to show. It is clear Kate and Chloe have always been positive people, but they may not be as unaware of each other’s weaknesses as it may have first seemed, and this is what makes the girls more than just over the top caricatures. Each are aware that, perhaps, things are not going as well as they keep claiming, but something is holding them back from admitting it and being able to move forward into a more believable (and attainable) future.

Wilson and Raphael do not hold back in their performances, fully committing to their roles and making Chloe and Kate both lovable and laughable. Outlandish performances from the supporting cast help round out this comedy ensemble with Alicia Silverstone playing Laurel, a successful author who won the pageant when the girls first competed, and Brian Geraghty as an attractive meth head made famous (at least in Kate and Chloe’s minds) thanks to a reality rehab show.

While Ass Backwards is certainly funny with Wilson and Raphael at the helm, the film overall is a bit of a disjointed mess, which could be seen as a mirror of the girls themselves, but it starts to become tiring as a viewer. That aside, it’s a really funny spin on a road trip story.

The Upside: Wilson and Raphael are the highlights here, proving their comedic chops at every turn; a bit like Dumb and Dumber (but with girls, obviously); plus a hilarious sing-a-long to a tape-skipping version of “Take On Me.”

The Downside: While the girls are consistently funny, they seem to circle around the same issues a few too many times before finally facing them, stalling the narrative and causing the duo to teeter between adorable and just plain doofy.

On the Side: Wilson and Raphael also co-wrote the script for Bride Wars, a stark contrast to Ass Backwards which is about two unflappable friends who love each other no matter what while Bride Wars was… not that.