Review: Before I Fall

Score: C-

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Cast: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Elena Kampouris, Logan Miller

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Before I Fall takes Groundhog Day's concept to high school, but fails to do anything interesting with it, despite the boundless potential.

Zoey Deutch – who looks so much like Rose Byrne that I'm shocked they're not related – plays Sam, one of the most popular girls at a high school somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. She and her trio of friends seemingly have it all, which of course means they do not. After a Valentine's party ends with a confrontation with the school's biggest outcast (Elena Kampouris, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2), they rush off into the rainy night and die in a horrific car accident.

Except Sam wakes up the next morning and it's actually the previous day, with the same annoyances, lessons and conversations repeating themselves. All her friends are still alive and the big party – and its ugliness – haven't happened yet. What Sam needs to do to free herself from this time loop is extremely obvious right away, which is part of the reason the film is so frustrating. It's a good hour of the film before it dawns on her that maybe she shouldn't be awful to people, especially someone she doesn't even really know.

But there's a lot of cliché to get through before that happens, as well as an extremely nihilistic section before Sam's big epiphany. As always, clichés can work, but the film has to work with them in an interesting or engaging way. Unfortunately, the movie has the chilly cinematography, the gorgeous homes and scenery, and the appropriately indie soundtrack, but its character development and acting aren't effective or memorable.

Groundhog Day has endured as one of the best comedies of the modern era because of its originality, yes, but also because of its assured comic tone and of course the performance of Bill Murray. There's still plenty to mine out of its conceit – The Mindy Project just did it a few weeks ago, and of course Edge of Tomorrow is extremely underrated – but Before I Fall is content to just let it be as generic as possible. It should have at least put its own stamp on it. As it is, this isn't a movie experience I'd even think about repeating.




About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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