By Lenny “The Happily Divorced Guy” Vasbinder
If you only have one day to live, would you do things differently? I was expecting to be bored by another stereotypical chick-flick, but I was surprisingly pleased. Before I Fall is a dark, high school drama, mostly about four “Mean Girls” with a “Groundhog’s Day” and “50 First Dates” twist to it. It seems based in an upscale society high school in the California Beverly Hills with scenic ocean-view roadways and the typical high school in-crowd and out-crowd.
It’s Cupid’s Day, the movie’s spin on Valentine’s Day, at Samantha’s high school. Samantha “Sam” Kingston (Zoey Deutch), one of the mean girls, keeps re-living February 12th over and over, waking up each morning with a distinct memory of what happened the day before, or rather coming up that day, but deciding to change what she does each day to make things better for everyone. The film functions as a coming-of-age story, as Samantha matures in the way she would learn from the previous day’s mistakes, taking precautions not to repeat them. Each “day” that she wakes up, she decides to try and do the right thing.
Many of the fragile moments take place at the kegger party happening at the parent-free home of Kent McFuller (Logan Miller), as Sam and her mean-girl cohorts continue their cruelty towards the nerdy and socially-introverted Juliet Sykes (Elena Kampouris). As the insults are thrown and tempers flare, Juliet runs off with Sam chasing after her to try and prevent what Sam already knows will happen.
“Before I Fall” does address several social issues involving teens, including bullying, suicide, underage drinking, safe-sex, pre-marital sex and being in love first. The film also addresses the social constructs of high school with the in-groups, out-groups, cliques, and loners. One thing I kept getting distracted by was the fact that Samantha did not look like a teenager. According to online reports, actress Zoey Deutch is only 22 but she looked older to me, even with all the makeup available on a movie set. This can also be blamed on movies being filmed in HD or even 4K, which will show every wrinkle.
“Before I Fall” is based on the adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s young-adult bestseller novel of the same name. It is directed by Ry Russo-Young (“Nobody Walks” and “You Won’t Miss Me,” both showing at the Sundance Film Festival) and working from the script by Maria Maggenti. The 99-minute running time moves by rather quickly and the film opens in wide release on March 3 2017.
The cast includes:
Zoey Deutch as Samantha Kingston
Halston Sage as Lindsay
Kian Lawley as Rob
Logan Miller as Kent
Cynthy Wu as Ally Harris
Elena Kampouris as Juliet Sykes
***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)