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Dan's Review: "Before I Fall" more like "Groundhog Day" for teens

Mar 02, 2017 11:08PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Zoey Deutch in Before I Fall - © 2017 – Open Road.

Before I Fall (Open Road)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving drinking, sexuality, bullying, some violent images, and language-all involving teens. 

Starring Zoey Deutch, Erica Tremblay, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Cynthy Wu, Kian Lawley, Jennifer Beals, Medalion Rahimi, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris, Liv Hewson, Nicholas Lea, Claire Corlett, Roan Curtis, Erica Tremblay.

Written by Maria Maggenti, based on the novel by Lauren Oliver.

Directed by Ry Russo-Young.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

Teen drama is all around, especially in the lucrative young adult literature market these days.  You can probably narrow that market to teen girls and millennials, who love to consume all sorts of drama and “have a good cry.” This previously untapped material has been the latest go-to for mainstream filmmakers, with a parade of movies based on such tear-jerker novels, including The Twilight Series, The Hunger Games Series, The Divergent Series, The Maze Runner Series, Beautiful Creatures, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, etc., to name a few. Most of these films are geared toward the niche teen audience, and are full of strong female characters dealing with, like…you know…boys and stuff. The latest YA novel to get a film adaptation is Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, a story about a high school teen stuck in the same day time loop (if this sounds a lot like 1993’s Groundhog Day, well…it is. More on that later).   

Zoey Deutch plays Samantha (Sam), a popular 18-year-old on the verge of graduation. She enjoys all the spoils of being admired by the majority of her classmates, including a close circle of attractive friends, the hottest guy as her boyfriend and all the party invites she can handle. She wakes up on “Cupid Day” (which I assume is some sort of precursor to Valentine’s Day) and heads to school after treating her mom (Jennifer Beals) and kid sister Izzy (Erica Tremblay) rather snotty. She moves in a pack of four equally beautiful young women, including her best friend Lindsay (Halston Sage) and gal-pals Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu). On occasion of the special romantic holiday, Sam expects to give up her virginity to her boyfriend Rob (Kian Lawley) during a party later that night. In the course of her day, Sam and her friends encounter “lesser” classmates that they treat with little regard our outright cruelty, including the resident Lesbian Anna (Liv Hewson) a moony-eyed admirer Kent (Logan Miller) and an introverted outcast named Juliet (Elena Kampouris). The day mostly goes off as planned, except for Rob’s mood-killing drunkenness and a cruel encounter with Juliet at the party. The girls head down a highway where “something” causes them to crash. Sam then wakes up from what seems like a dream in the very same day, and the same events repeat. At first, Sam deals with the time loop with astonishment and gradually goes through stages of excess, sadness, anger, rebellion and eventually arrives at a little self-reflection and soul searching. She vows to do everything she can to make things right, including patching up relationships with family, friends and the less fortunate (like the victim of bullying). Her journey of self-discovery eventually leads her to a place where she must make a tough choice to break the loop.

Before I Fall is, in many ways, EXACTLY like Groundhog Day, especially with regard to the time loop plot device (she even wakes to the same song every morning, but it’s not Sonny & Cher), and going through the various stages of “grief.” Both films split when it comes to tone, as Groundhog Day is a romantic comedy, and Before I Fall is a drama (of the “teen” variety). In the end, Sam and Phil (Bill Murray’s character) arrive at the same solution, albeit with different outcomes. These blaring similarities get in the way of the stated purpose of both films: learning to observe and appreciate all the good in the world around you through repetition.

Zoey Deutch is a rising star with real potential, while the other young actors in Before I Fall are equally adequate in their roles, even though some of the characterizations are stereotypical, ridden with overhyped teen vices (like drug/alcohol use, cussing, sex and bullying). These tropes are made a little more palatable by the obvious notion that it’s always a good idea to inspire teens to be a little more aware of the people around you and get off your dang smartphones one in a while (yeah, I’m OLD).

In that sense, Before I Fall isn’t a total loss.


Before I Fall Trailer

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