'Before I Fall'
‘Groundhog Day’ was a high-concept Bill Murray comedy that proved to be a timeless philosophical masterpiece. It’s not surprising that other movies have tried to rip off that film’s concept. That’s just how the legacy of a groundbreaking movie goes, and some (like Duncan Jones’ ‘Source Code’) have even been rather good. Unfortunately, ‘Before I Fall’ is not one of the successes.
The movie’s script embarrassingly rips off just about every aspect of ‘Groundhog Day’ except for the warmth, humor, philosophy or freshness – basically, the parts that made it a classic. In their place, screenwriter Maria Maggenti has merely slathered on some emo teen drama that adds nothing beyond just enough variance to avoid a lawsuit. Even though the target youth audience likely won’t have seen ‘Groundhog Day’ and will marvel at the clever premise, they deserve better and shouldn’t be duped. There’s a far better version of this movie already available, even if it isn’t about whiny teen angst.
The film opens with Sam (Zoey Deutch) waking up on the morning of February 12th. With it being the last school day before Valentine’s Day, students all determine their sense of self-worth by how many flowers they receive. Since Sam is one of the popular girls, she receives a lot of flowers. One is from Kent (Logan Miller), who has obviously loved her since childhood, but she doesn’t care because she has a dull hunk to lean on. She ignores her family, ‘cuz she’s a selfish teen. Sam and her gang also relentlessly bully a girl named Juliet (Elena Kampouirs). Yadda yadda yadda, tragedy ensues. Yadda yadda yadda, Sam wakes up and lives through the same day again. Then it happens again. Then it happens again and again and again. Over and over, until eventually Sam starts learning about the extras in her life story and how she should become a better person and so forth. You get it. You’ve been here before.
Like I said, it’s ‘Groundhog Day’ for teens. ‘Before I Fall’ is an exact replica of that film’s general form, structure and purpose. Transferring it over into the predictably bland world of moody teen drama doesn’t make it any better. If anything, the new milieu detracts from the concept because it just brings up a new crop of “sarcastic teens learning to love themselves and the world” clichés that are even more tiresome. The characters are so unlikeable that it’s tough to care when they change. The hero is so bland in all the ways she’s horrible, and so predictably dull in all the ways that she improves, that her emotional growth is essentially a mild push from kinda crappy to somewhat decent. It’s tough to give two shits about that.
Actor/director Ry Russo-Young works well with her cast and cares about how to visually construct her movie. ‘Before I Fall’ is executed about as well as its knockoff by-the-numbers screenplay could ever be produced. However, the fact that everyone making this drivel is talented only makes the experience of trudging through this lame duck of a teenybopper fantasy that much more painful to take. Simply put, it’s a waste of time, a movie that exists only because it made for an easily sellable pitch, not because anyone involved was passionate about the story that pitch became. Feel free to ignore ‘Before I Fall’ over and over, forevermore.