Sunday, March 5, 2017

Movie Review: "Before I Fall" (2017)

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Director: Ry Russo-Young
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

A high school senior is forced to live a single day over and over until she gets it right. 

"Before I Fall" is directed by Ry Russo-Young and is written by Maria Maggenti based on the novel by Lauren Oliver. It stars Zoey Deutch as high school senior Samantha Kingston. She is one of the cool kids in school and hangs out in her popular "Mean Girls"-type clique led by Lindsay Edgecomb, played by Halston Sage, who regularly bullies the less popular girls, in particular, Juliet, played by Elena Kampouris. Also in this foursome-friendsome group are Ally (Cynthy Wu) and Elody(Medalion Rahimi). It's February 12th, aka 'Cupid Day' as they call it, and Samantha doesn't know it, but she is about to relive this day over and over until she gets it right after a horrible accident forces her to reevaluate what is important in life.

If you were to hear the concept of this film for the first time, you may think it sounds familiar, and there is probably a reason for that. This movie is basically a slightly darker, slightly more depressing version of "Groundhog Day" made for teenage girls with an anti-bullying message. It seems Lauren Oliver may have been a fan of the Bill Murray classic as it mirrors the 1993 film almost identically, but over the course of a shorter time period. Zoey Deutch's character Samantha starts off the film as a huge asshole bully who follows the lead of her even bigger asshole bully friend Lindsay. Much like "Groundhog Day," "Before I Fall" is about an abrasive protagonist who must learn to be a better person over the course of living the same day repeatedly until they get it right, in this case, Cupid Day, a day when many things go wrong and need fixing.

Despite its derivative nature, this is not a bad movie. It does create its own voice in its details and tone. This is a full-on drama that is all about what Samantha has to do to break the cycle of her deja vu. She tries many things to fill her repeated day, including trying to change its ending repeatedly and eventually doing what she wants by donning an 'I don't care' attitude and some hardcore emo makeup. Eventually, she comes to the realization that she must swing the pendulum the other way and starts to think maybe the trick is to be a decent person and to stop treating people like garbage. This is the basic message of the film, to stop being such a garbage person and to actually be nice to others. Simple, right? Apart from this plot, the acting is good enough from this young cast to get the job done and the story is interesting enough in its changes despite its godawful soundtrack of current popular tunes (read: get off our lawn).

The target audience for "Before I Fall" is comprised of teenage girls who read the book, definitely not BigJ and I. These people already know where and how the story all winds up, but we're sure they, as well as others, may enjoy and appreciate the journey to get there as well. There is also a bold choice made at the end of the film, which actually makes this film worth watching and not a complete waste of space. That being said, this is not a movie we would seek out ever again or even watch ever again, but for what it's worth, we didn't completely hate this teen drama and appreciate its strong anti-bullying message.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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