So… a young-adult version of GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) with no comedy?
This idea is really old. It’s so overdone that I remember an episode of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS doing this and was almost as fun as the actual Bill Murray movie. Well fine, if you want to release a nothing movie about this concept, go right ahead, Hollywood! See if I care!
Well, let’s take a look at this cast. Starring is Zoey Deutch (EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! , DIRTY GRANDPA , and VAMPIRE ACADEMY ). She’s certainly cropped up a lot over the course of 2016, but with the possible exception of EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!, she still hasn’t found that role that will launch her career to the heavens. She’s talented enough to warrant better films, but she is still pretty fresh as far as her experience goes. Here’s to a great 2017 for you, miss Deutch! Other talents alongside her include Elena Kampouris (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 , THE COBBLER , and LABOR DAY ), Logan Miller (A DOG’S PURPOSE , SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE , and TV show THE WALKING DEAD), Nicholas Lea (TV shows ARROW, V, AND KYLE XY), and Erica Tremblay (THE BYE BYE MAN ).
Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Ry Russo-Young, known for NOBODY WALKS (2012). Penning the screenplay is Maria Maggenti, mostly a TV writer, like FINDING CARTER, an episode of 90210, and a few episodes of WITHOUT A TRACE. Composing the music is Adam Taylor, known for MEADOWLAND (2015) and a bunch of short films and documentaries. Finally, the cinematographer is Michael Fimognari, known for OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016), THE LAZARUS EFFECT (2015), and OCULUS (2014).
Yeah, this looks like it’s going to be a bad movie. I have little more to say, so… onward.
This is my honest opinion of: BEFORE I FALL
Sam (Zoey Deutch) is a typical high school teen girl. She has fun with her friends, wants to have sex with her boyfriend, brushes off guys she doesn’t like, and makes fun of other girls that are different than her. Harsh toward her parents and little sister, wants to go to parties, the usual. Deciding to lose her virginity to her boyfriend at a party that night, she goes with her friends, but plans don’t go that swimmingly. Instead, Juliet (Elena Kampouris), the latest victim of Sam and her friends’ bullying crashes the party and she and Lindsay (Halston Sage), Sam’s best friend, get into a fight. This ruins the mood and they leave, only to get into a car accident. Sam wakes up… but not in any hospital, but rather her bed. And to her confusion and shock, she’s reliving the same day, the exact same events playing out the exact same way. Sam then tries to make sense of why this is happening to her and tries everything to break this cycle of going through the same day again.
Grr… alright, I won’t lie and say that this was the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but… it got pretty close for about ninety percent of the film.
I wouldn’t know if this was the movie’s intent, but I think it was trying to do that thing where you’re supposed to not like the main characters, but as the story progresses, you grow to like them. Thing is, they do the “you’re not supposed to like these characters at first” thing too well. Why? Because these teen characters are beyond obnoxious. “Wassup, sexy slut?!” “WOOO, nice tits!” “We’re your besties!” “Love you, Bae!” I’m surprised I didn’t turn into Forest Whitaker with how much my eye was twitching from annoyance. I wasn’t surprised to see my fingernails bleeding from clawing at my armrest, though. Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if this is exactly how teen girls like this talk. But by the grace of God, we need a disclaimer up on the screen that says, “Millennials will be millennials in this picture. Have a towel ready for all the blood that will be gushing from your orifices.” That would have been appreciated. And it’s relentless, topped with clichés like girls trying on clothes and making each other laugh like hyenas that took way too much ecstasy. What kills me is that the very first lines of the movie are narrations trying to sound wise and profound when in actuality it’s gibberish spoken in an emo tone. And then five damn minutes later, the movie has the balls to have a slow-mo epic walk like these girls think they’re the Avengers. Oh my god, I hated this movie with a burning passion within the first five minutes.
It never gets any better either. I probably should have seen this coming, in retrospect, but it became clear that these girls that this movie is following are mean girls. Oh yeah, because that’s a story worth ten-plus dollars out of my hard-earned paycheck. Yeah, they make fun of Juliet because she has frizzy, unkempt hair and make really cruel jokes, saying things like she should be back in an insane asylum. Even the centerfold, Sam, is laughing at all of this. And during the party scene, Lindsay and friends randomly start making fun of her to her face, to which causes her to verbally lash out, causing a minor cat fight, and then the girls throwing their drinks at her, and then random party-goers throw their drinks at her too, causing her to run out of the party. Once again, Sam, the main character, is also
I’d love to rip on a movie that showcases bullies as the main characters that we’re supposed to root for, but two things hold me back. One, the movie is supposed to be about a mean girl turning nice. And two, I’m just going to rag on how poorly Sam is introduced.
If you look at the likes of Lindsay and the other girls, they all dress and look like exactly what you’d think a mean girl would dress like. Tight clothes that show off their figures, wear expensive-ass fur coats, tons of make-up, and they know exactly how they look and show off. Sam on the other hand looks nothing like that. Yes, she wears form-fitting clothes, but she’s wearing dresses, she’s lighter on the make-up, she doesn’t even have the same mannerisms. She presents herself normal. But bad screenwriting demands flashes of her being a bitch for almost no reason. It seems really out of place for this character. I went to high school too and I remember “the hot chicks.” You can tell me all you want that those girls had their separate identities and had different interests, which fine, I can’t judge, but anyone on the outside looking in can see patterns and no matter the differences, there’s far more similarities. They looked the same, they sounded the same, and they acted the same. A girl like Sam would have been in another clique all her own. She almost plays like Lindsay Lohan’s character from MEAN GIRLS (2004), a nice girl that’s “in” with the popular mean girls. But no, that’s who she is, a mean girl who looks like a nice girl and it bothers the living crap out of me.
But again, that’s probably the point of the character and every single complaint I have is exactly what they were going for. Thing is, if you’re going to excel in that, her character arch needs to have an equal swing in the other direction. In other words, we need to see a big character change; those moments that subtly change her outlook on life, regret her mistakes, change her ways, and become a better person both for herself and others. Here’s the problem: those moments don’t exist. What does Sam really learn by the end of the movie? What were the moments that changed her?
Let’s take a look at her love interest: Kent (Logan Miller). He’s introduced as this creepy stalker guy who has a huge hard-on for Sam. Later, we learn he’s a sweet guy who just wants to see Sam be better than who she’s been. Thing is, she’s pretty mean to him and dismisses him at every turn rather coldly. So… what does Kent see in her? Yeah, I know they have a backstory that she stood up for him against a bully that was picking on him, but that’s when they were kids. Time has gone on and anyone would have moved on from their childhood crushes by that point, especially if they hadn’t maintained their level of awesome. Sam clearly didn’t and doesn’t even remember what she did for him until the subject is brought up toward the end. She’s essentially a different person, so what does he see in her? None of the lessons she learns in this story feel like they flow naturally. They’re just forced because the plot needs to move forward before audiences walk out of the theatre due to boredom.
Another problem with the movie is that it’s horribly unfocused at times. As Sam is putting the pieces together that she’s reliving the same day, she, for whatever reason, stops trying to solve the reason why, which is blatantly obvious that she should be saving Juliet from killing herself, which you find out pretty early on in the movie, so this isn’t a spoiler. I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I was reliving the same day over and over again, and I knew that someone killed herself at some point, I’d try to stop that shit. Instead, Sam takes her sister out on a fun time around the woods and joins her parents for dinner. Because… yeah, in the whole span of your day that keeps repeating, you need to make things right with the people that you haven’t really wronged. Okay, yes, she yells at her sister and mother, but you can easily mark that down under the “typical teen-parent-sibling relationship” chart and no one would be the wiser. It’s Juliet that Sam helped treat horribly. It’s that moment in the party that drives Juliet so far over the edge to kill herself, and it’s never explained why Sam doesn’t piece that together.
Oh, and the ending is stupid. There is no reason for Sam to die. All she had to do was try and tackle Juliet to the ground and, I don’t know, sit on her back for a couple minutes to save her life. No one needed to die.
But it’s time to be fair. I mentioned that there were a few things that I enjoyed about this movie.
First off, the most standout scenes that I found to be the most engaging were between Sam and Juliet, as few of them as there are. Kampouris once again delivers probably the most powerful performance in this movie. Despite her limited onscreen appearance, she owns every scene that she’s in. Her vulnerability, her hatred, her regret, her sadness, it’s all beautifully displayed and Kampouris does an amazing job.
But how about the star attraction, Deutch? I’ve gone on about how she’s actually a fine actress, but finds herself in mostly bad movies. This is no exception. Despite my not liking this movie, I can’t deny that Deutch carries the film extraordinarily well. She runs the gauntlet of all different types of acting. If she needs to be a typical teenager acting out, she’s got it down. If she needs to act like a best friend, it’s right on the money. If she needs to act like a bitch, you immediately hate her. Every emotional note that she needs to hit, she knocks it out of the park. As I said before, all she needs now is a legitimately good movie to be a part of and really give her a role that will send shivers down everyone’s spine.
So, is that it? Did good acting save this movie? Yeah, a little. It still doesn’t make a good complete package, but it’s not terrible. But if you want to see this kind of story done better, watch either GROUNDHOG DAY, or season three, episode two “Been There, Done That” of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. Both do this concept far more enjoyably. I don’t recommend seeing this in theatres, and I don’t recommend it as a rental. I won’t go out of my way and say to avoid it entirely, but I don’t think anyone is going to get anything out of it. I only saw it once and I’m good with never seeing it again. I hope the best for the cast, whom are fine enough, but this movie isn’t worth much.
My honest rating for BEFORE I FALL: a weak 3/5