Film Review: Before I Fall

I love the movie Groundhog Day. I would even refer to it as arguably one of the best comedies of all-time. You’ve got Bill Murray in his prime and some fantastic writing making it a quintessential film if you enjoy comedy in any way, shape or form. Clearly the film has inspired others to take on similar plots such as Edge of Tomorrow, the fantastic sci-fi repeat flick with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. When I saw the trailer for this one, it looked like another attempt at a Groundhog Day-inspired plot but with a teen twist and an attempt to be more dramatic in nature rather than comedic. It also starred one of the most adorable new female stars in Zoey Deutch.

Like I said, this film has heavy doses of Groundhog Day. In this film, high-school senior Sam (Zoey Deutch) hangs out with her friends and plans for her big night where she plans to lose her virginity to her jock boyfriend. Sam is not a very nice person. She isn’t nice to her younger sister or her parents. Sam and her friends are not nice people in general. They are vain, materialistic and they bully anyone who they believe to be lower than them. After a disastrous house party in which one ‘weird girl’ is made to feel like an outcast, the girls get into an accident… and then Sam wakes up… to the exact same day. What exactly is going on and how can she put an end to this endless time loop?

One thing that impressed me about this film was how ‘adult’ it was. That may sound weird but allow me to explain. This doesn’t feel like one of those teen-focused movies based on a book that dumbs itself down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. This movie treats its viewers like adults and doesn’t take forever and a day to explain all of the plot details. There isn’t a lot of contrivances here or lack of realism. These girls are your typical high school ‘mean girls.’ As we start to swing around and the audience starts rooting for Deutch’s character, it feels authentic and not a sudden change of heart that she has to merely serve the story. The other part of this film that felt very ‘adult’ and authentic is how developed the characters are throughout the entire thing. No one is a perfect hero. No one is a villain either. Just because Deutch learns some rather upsetting facts about one of her friends and even ‘spills the beans’ to the other ones about some back-talking she has done about them, everyone seems to have a reason for being the way they are.

As I said at the beginning of this review, Zoey Deutch is oppressively adorable. Besides that, however, she is also a very talented young actress and knows how to convey emotion in a scene very naturally. This is why she was such a steal in the film Everybody Wants Some!!, a film that was based on natural performances and never felt like anyone was ‘acting.’ To have that talent is fairly rare so kudos to her. Logan Miller plays a kind-of unrequited love interest but he does so much more than that. Miller is understanding and has a kind look in his eyes that radiates off the screen. He is not necessarily trying to attain love as much as he is trying to understand his place in life. Halston Sage stands out as Zoey’s good friend but also has the characteristics of a villain. Again, she doesn’t appear as one-dimensional though and has a reason for being that way, which is certainly helped by Sage’s grounded performance. Jennifer Beals showing up as Deutch’s mother was a nice surprise and as another reviewer has mentioned, there may even be a cute reference to Flashdance in the film so keep a sharp eye open.

A difficulty that can arise from a film with a plot like this is the issue of potentially boring your audience with the same scenario time after time. Thankfully though, screenwriter Maria Maggenti knows how to create different situations every time we get a reprisal of the core scenes of the film. Zoey becomes desperate at first to change her situation when her day first starts repeating itself. However, that attitude soon changes and at one point, she is going to school in revealing clothing and telling everyone exactly what is on her mind. As she learns by trial and error, the audience really roots for her to find the correct manner in which to improve her life. That really speaks to the script and also the strong direction from Ry Russo-Young, who does an excellent job directing the acting in particular. It’s worth noting that a film which explores some issues regarding being female and having a sisterhood comes from a real source as both the writer and director of this film are (GASP) women! What a novel concept, eh?

Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable movie and I enjoyed it more than I expected. Give it a watch if you’re looking for an entertaining and moral-oriented way to kill 100 minutes.

RATING: *** ½

 

Rating System:

Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)

* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)