before-i-fall

This post was originally published on News Cult in March 2017.

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Diego Bonita, Jennifer Beals

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Teenagers Screaming at Each Other and Fatal Driving Habits

Release Date: March 3, 2017

Before I Fall is basically Groundhog Day for the YA set, which begs the question: what takes the place of “I Got You Babe.” Instead of Bill Murray being eternally roused by Sonny, Cher, and some hacky small town DJ’s, we now have Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!Why Him?) staring into space to the strains of Big Data ft. Joywave’s “Dangerous,” which serves as her phone alarm. It’s a great song – a giddy, pounding, kind of sensual dance number (I ranked it the 13th best of 2014), but in the context of the scene, it lacks personality. Presumably Deutch’s Samantha Kingston likes this song, whereas “Babe” was a constant bugaboo reminding Murray’s Phil Connors of his eternal prison. “Dangerous” may signal the same for Sam, but it lacks punch for her to fight against.

This is such a downbeat, unspectacular route for Before to go in, especially compared to its buoyant predecessor. But perhaps that is the point. Sam has a perfectly pleasant high school senior existence, but it could all be masking how dead she is inside. And it is not repeating the same day over and over that makes her so, though she may not realize it at first. The only problem here is that the film fails to signal its purpose until about halfway through. Before that, it’s just a bunch of basic teenagers hanging out, partying, and giving each other roses on “Cupid Day.”

The challenge that Before I Fall presents to its audience boils down to: can Deutch win us over by the end, after a first act in which she participates in a hellish display of mean girlhood? To be real, though, this is not a tall order, as this viciousness is alarmingly unnatural. These girls could not possibly be that terrible to each other, could they? A major message of the movie is how adolescence can lead us profoundly away from our true identities. And Deutch’s true colors, which she generously displays, are quite charming. The movie she is in, however, lacks the small-town specificity that makes Groundhog Day a classic, but it genuinely explores the emotional truth of young adulthood.

Before I Fall is Recommended If You Like: The Groundhog Days scenes where the old man dies, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Grade: 3 out of 5 Nth Chances

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