By Chaz Lipp
The Lowdown: Emo teen Groundhog Day redux that will be woefully predictable for all but the least experienced moviegoers (who actually comprise the target demographic; in that regard it’s a success).
Think of Before I Fall as a teen-oriented, darker take on Groundhog Day. Samantha (Zoey Deutch) is a mean(ish) girl whose clique teases and torments their high school’s designated weirdos. Chief among them is Juliet (Elena Kampouris), a frizzy-haired (but otherwise attractive—go figure) girl who suffers insults flung by Samantha’s best friend Lindsay (Halston Sage, channeling Rachel McAdams’ Regina from over a decade ago). Together with two other less-defined cohorts Allison and Elody (Cynthy Wu and Medalion Rahimi), Samantha and Lindsay glide through their days having carefree, self-absorbed fun largely at the expense of others.
After a Cupid Day party where a drunken Lindsay throws drinks at Juliet (who showed up uninvited), a terrible rollover car accident claims the lives of the bitchy quartet. Or so it seems. Samantha wakes up the next morning only to find that it’s the same morning, just like Bill Murray did nearly 25 years ago in director Harold Ramis’ aforementioned classic. Everything old becomes new again, and teen audiences are unlikely to care that this particular dramatic conceit has been done before. Samantha’s mission is essentially the same as Murray’s: relive the same day over and over again until she gets it “right.” But unlike the Ramis film, the journey is less comedic and more emo.
We’re cued right from the outset that Samantha has a heart of gold beneath her go-with-the-crowd exterior. She slowly learns to be nicer to her parents, her little sister, and her milquetoast classmate Kent (Logan Miller), a not-so-secret admirer. But frustration ensues as none of it is enough for Samantha to successfully finalize the day. Her ultimate task is so obvious that her avoidance of the issue only underlines Samantha’s shallowness. It would’ve been much more interesting if the meaner, less sympathetic (and more complex, in terms of backstory) Lindsay had been forced to change her heartless ways. As the clique’s ringleader, her meanness is far more deeply integrated in her personality. Cracking Lindsay’s icy facade would’ve made for a more dramatic character arc.
Before I Fall images: Open Road Films