Getting away from the typical knee jerk reaction after viewing the trailer for “Before I Fall” (which is to simply call it a “Groundhog Day” rip off) and viewing this movie for what it is, is no less gratifying. It would be easy to dismiss this as a “Groundhog Day” rip off (since the premise is based on the idea of the same day keeps on reoccurring). Also if you want to levy that argument against this movie you have to do the same for the Sci-Fi action film “Edge of Tomorrow (or whatever they are calling it these days). It’s a good premise and a solid idea to set as a teenage drama. I say this because the movie has far more problems with it than just borrowing the concept of a reoccurring day.
I had a bad feeling about this movie when I had never heard of it until merely a few weeks before its release. This isn’t always a bad thing. I didn’t know anything about the first “John Wick” movie until a month out and look how that turned out? Come awards season there are many surprising films that get their marketing started late. But, it didn’t feel like a good sign that the screening was a Saturday afternoon, and the first I’m hearing of a movie based on a popular young adult novel is only a few weeks beforehand.
But pushing that aside (and all initial bias out the window) I watched the movie in eager hope of a good film. “Before I Fall” is certainly an attempt at a good film. The actors are all clearly trying, the direction is decent and there does feel like there was some genuine effort behind the production. However, this movie feels incredibly rushed from a storytelling perspective and a production standpoint. Some of these scenes feel like the first take in need of a few more to really get the scene down. The story feels like it’s missing scenes that would provide and fix the glaring plot omissions. Narratively this movie completely crumbles in on itself which is a shame because I felt there were some interesting concepts being attempted here.
The narrative follows a teenage girl named Samantha. She and her 4 friends get involved in a car accident but instead of dying she just wakes up at the beginning of the day and repeats the same events over and over again.
The narrative is where the movie really struggles. The film sets up its core characters and concept well enough but as the film progresses it starts to introduce new elements that completely contradict what happens in a previous scene. A big one that comes to mind the relationship between Samantha and her mother. In the beginning, they appear to have a fine relationship then out of nowhere we are told that they are distant and rocky and troubled. Um…..when were you going to establish that? This near the midpoint of the movie (maybe even a little past that). Other plot elements feel thrown in there. Like, the boy that invites Sam and her friends to the party is a childhood friend. You don’t find out about that until halfway through the movie. So, in the beginning, you’re wondering if the boy is just a creepy stalker for hitting on a girl in a relationship or are they in some sort of relationship? Moments like that stem up over and over again. All of sudden Sam is mad at her friend and shares feelings that she never indicated to have. It’s not a revelation, it’s random. It’s not a progression of the plot, there is no flow or build up to it.
Not to mention these are absolutely horrible characters. The writer gives these the 4 main girls the absolute worst character traits that you could give teenage girls. They are loud, obnoxious, annoying, mean-spirited, and bullies. If you’re waiting for them to be redeemed in any sort of way, you’ll be waiting forever because they never are. They attempt to redeem one but it’s so incredibly insignificant that it’s amazing that the writer (or director) thought it was a passable way to do the redemption storyline.
Let me talk about some positives. As I said early this movie has some interesting story concepts. Especially the resolution of the narrative. That was nearly the only part that I didn’t see coming and stayed with me after the credits rolled (if only the execution of the rest of the movie was on point). The actors and actresses were all clearly trying. Most of them performed quite well in the roles that were given. I really like Zoey Deutch as a leading actress and hope she gets more roles. She is very likable and has a sweetness, relatability and comedic charm about her. She’ll only get better. However, that being said I did not buy her trying to act like a bad person. I don’t know if it was her or the direction from the director but that side of her didn’t work.
“Before I Fall” from a technical standpoint is a competently made film. There is noticeable effort behind it (despite me critiquing the hell out of it) and I thought the actors were generally fine and did well enough. However, the story didn’t work, the dialogue was incredibly cringe worthy and fake sounding, the characters were awful and it misses some big opportunities that it could have executed well on. I have a feeling that this young adult drama will come and go very quickly with a small fan base but not enough to keep it relevant (but perhaps I’ll be wrong).