Anyone familiar with my reviews would know pretty quickly about my exhaustion with these story and book adaptations from the young adult section aimed at the lucrative tween audience. It seems that aside from the Twilight and Hunger Games series, everything else has been a bust. The Chloe Grace Moretz led 5th Wave didn’t even make a fizzle at the box office, The Choice proved that Nicholas Sparks has only unpopular stories to adapt now and Allegiant pushed the Divergent Series all the way down to doing the final piece of that saga on television with none of the original cast returning. So, when I see on my calendar that I have a brand new book adaptation, Before I Fall, starring and aimed at teenage girls, well, I roll my eyes like they would at an annoying parent.
The film is about Sam, played by Everybody Wants Some’s Zoey Deutch, a privileged teen who is one of the four mean girls at her high school. Waking up on Friday, February 12th, Cupid’s Day, Sam and her friends (Lindsey, Elody and Ally) have big plans. First Lindsey picks them all up for school, where they razz Sam – psyching her up to lose her virginity to her boyfriend (popular douchebag) Rob. Then the girls head out to a house party thrown by Sam’s former childhood friend Kent, one that she’s been avoiding for years. At the party, a confrontation with the outcast girl in the school, Juliet, gets tempers flaring and the girls leave only to get into a massive car wreck on the way home. When Sam awakes she finds herself reliving that same day over and over again with, seemingly, no way beyond it.
Against everything I thought was going to happen, I did not dislike this film. I know. It’s crazy. I feel like I need to re-evaluate my entire life. Yes, the film does suffer from those cliches that come with teen girl movies. There’s no real indication that Sam is really one of these mean girls because she kind of feels shoehorned into this category out of plot convenience. Looking beyond this, the “Groundhog Day” style plot device makes us interested in her story as she tries many different ways to change the events of the day, whether it’s the change of her clique’s partying for the day or focusing on her family, whom she had neglected for so long. As Sam changes the trajectory of her life, we begin to like her more and more and that may be due to the charm of Deutch herself.
Where the film has some gaffes, they may be due to the limitations of the book itself and the establishing of these teen girl characters, which again lumps it into that pesky cliched-ness problem. The director, Ry Russo-Young, makes her fourth feature film with Before I Fall, but her first major studio picture after cutting her teeth with the Lena Dunham written indie film Nobody Walks. Teaming with Monte Carlo writer Maria Maggenti, the two are able to elevate the film past being a dull and uninteresting tween drama to an actually compelling mystery that will have you engaged until it’s very satisfying feeling finish. I’m astounded that I actually felt anything for this film as I had almost a staunch resistance when the beginning credits hit and now my world is topsy-turvy. Black is white, up is down and I’m giving Before I Fall a favorable review! Oh, what a world! 3/5