Before I Fall

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The studio did two screenings of this movie, but they were on a Saturday. That’s perfect for critics to take their teens to. I just couldn’t make it that day. So on a Saturday night, all prepared to deal with the throngs of teenagers at the showing, I headed to the Reading Town Square. My wife said, “You realize we’ll be the oldest people in there, right?”

Imagine our surprise when we saw two couples that were senior citizens, as well as a handful of adults. There were only a few small groups of teenagers. Perhaps they were all at Logan.

The movie gave us a decent set up to the premise. We meet a group of teen girls on Valentine’s Day. They’re affectionate with each other, gossip, compete over who will get the most roses sent to their classroom, etc. After a party ends with the girls getting into a car crash, Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch of Why Him?) wakes up the next morning, which is actually the previous day. That’s when the movie becomes Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls (which I would bet money, is how the YA film was pitched).

Deutch is the perfect lead. She’s totally believable as the arrogant cutie that slowly starts to change. She has a lot of range with her facial expressions. Yet one of the problems is that…if she’s been tormented by reliving the same day and forced to change…shouldn’t it be the lead “mean girl” of their group? She’s played by Halston Sage of Paper Towns and Neighbors.

When the day is replayed over and over, it’s interesting how the teens do and say slightly different things. There were some sharp bits of dialogue. One problem is that you see that her group of friends really are a vile bunch. In movies like Mean Girls or Clueless, the popular girls can be snotty, but you seem to understand their motivations. These girls are off the charts horrible.

A nice touch the movie had, was something I also liked in Edge of Seventeen. The “nerdy” boy (Logan Miller) that likes the popular girl…isn’t so nerdy. That approach works a lot better  (as it does for Deutch’s mom Lea Thompson being liked and admired by the not-so-nerdy Eric Stoltz in Some Kind of Wonderful) than the unrealistic situations we usually see in teen movies.

Unfortunately, there are too many things in this movie I didn’t like. One of them was showing Deutch wake up each morning, multiple times. They want us to see that many days have passed. For some reason, doing that just makes us realize how this movie isn’t nearly as good as Groundhog Day. Deutch may have expressive eyes, and she does wonders with them in this, just not during a montage of waking up scenes the way Bill Murray’s frustration showed. That could be because it would certainly be more frustrating to wake up to Sonny & Cher instead of Big Data’s “Dangerous.”

Two of the friends, Elody and Ally (Medalion Rahimi, Cynthia Wu), are written a bit one-dimensionally and don’t seem very realistic as people. Perhaps Lauren Oliver couldn’t get out of the YA trappings and cliches of just making one loud and one shy. Similarly, Jennifer Beals isn’t given enough to do.

Lindsay (Halston Sage), comes across like Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls, with a bit of Blair from The Facts of Life (and perhaps the witch from Blair Witch Project). She does a terrific job with the role, but I think in the 3rd act, it would’ve been more powerful to see a bit of change from that character. Even if comes begrudgingly.

The musical score was done well, but the cheesy songs blasting every few scenes was annoying. It felt like I was watching music videos, or hanging out in a nightclub. Aside from the party, having songs like that is just a distraction.

The ending was was heavy-handed (hell, the whole film was), and doesn’t quite work as well as it should. That being said, I was never bored, despite not being the target audience.

A handful of the scenes could’ve been done better. One that comes to mind, is when beer is thrown on the weird girl at a party. It was reminiscent of the pig blood scene in Carrie, but not nearly as powerful.

This is a good movie for teens. Sure, it deals with basic lessons we probably learned in grade school, but if I were 16, this would get 4 stars out of 5. I’m 30 years older than that, so it gets 2 stars out of 5.