Director Ry Russo-Young adapts the young adult novel ‘Before I Fall’ by Lauren Oliver in this less than always engaging movie.
In it, teenager Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) wakes up on February 12, lives what turns out to be her last day, and then is forced to perpetually relive the same day as she tries to figure out how she might have lived a better life.
A version of Groundhog Day with a high-school setting and a little bit of Heathers and Mean Girls thrown in, the film begins well enough but is soon hobbled by the limits of its very teenage concerns and an increasingly sentimental set of thin and obvious revelations about the fallacies of middle-class, white American teenage existence.
What just about holds most of the film together is Deutch’s performance. She’s an engaging and reasonably complicated presence, reminiscent of the charms and offbeat beauty of her slightly older contemporary Ellen Page, who held her own in Juno – but Deutch’s performance is without the humour, which helped make Juno appealing to viewers of all ages.
If anything the material here, rather than paying homage to Harold Ramis’s Groundhog Day, instead shows just how brilliant and unique that film was.
Sam and her friends are the cool girls, the bullies, and while they’re shown to be slightly more complex and vulnerable than they might first appear, the repetition of their faults can only take the audience so far. That point is reached too early on to make it stick in any kind of significant way. Everything is a little too convenient, melodramatic and obvious to make Samantha’s repetitive journey of self-discovery interesting enough to warrant the 98 minutes it takes to unfold. There are few surprises and, without that fundamental element, the story ends up being as shallow as its stereotypical characters and their revelations.
Russo-Young and her writer Maria Maggenti needed to make the most of the book’s premise by adding a healthy dose of humour and irony to the story to make it more than a poor imitation of better films about the same kind of characters in similar situations.
Watching a sombre, serious-minded, sensitive young woman realise too late that she only has one life to live and should make the most of it by being kinder and more appreciative is not enough to drive a compelling story. It may be a worthy enough message but it could have been conveyed in a far more imaginative way.
Like Sam and her friends’ callous attitudes on their last day of living, Before I Fall is ultimately a resoundingly missed opportunity to do something better with its potentially interesting premise.
WATCH the trailer for Before I Fall