BEFORE I FALL Review: 5 out of 10 (Groundhogging the Mean Girls)
BEFORE I FALL is the latest teen melodrama directed by Ry Russo-Young and written by Maria Maggenti, based on the 2010 novel of same name by Lauren Oliver. The film stars Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, and Jennifer Beals. The plot centers on Samantha Kingston (Deutch), a high school senior who finds that she may be living the last day of her life over and over until she gets it right. Samantha Kingston has everything: the perfect friends, the perfect guy, and a seemingly perfect future. And when I say "perfect" I mean flawless. Every house is perfect. Every teen is beautiful (and looks to be in their early 20s). Set somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, there is beauty everywhere. Even the school is pristine with towering glass and beams housing the school cafeteria. When these teens party--they party like a Crate and Barrel advert. What teenager hosts a kegger and hangs tree lights? Further, even the "freak" girl that everyone makes fun of would probably be the Homecoming Queen at any other school in the country. Samantha and all her friends are snatched right out of a CW version of a MEAN GIRLS remake and dropped in here... thinly written teenage stereotypes. After one long day of conflict and a worsening fateful night, Sam wakes up to the same day she had lived before--ala GROUNDHOG'S DAY. To make that comparison isn't a loose one. It is absolutely 100% on the nose. Trapped reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question her own character flaws while alternately untangling the mystery of how she died, as well as the secrets of the people closest to her, and discover the power of how to make a difference. If that isn't enough, she also finds ways to end sibling rivalry, strife with her parents, the pain of a divorce on a teenager, dangers of teenage drinking, how to find true love, beating mean girls syndrome, suicide prevention, and on and on and on. But its primary focus is the anti-bullying campaign it touts.
BEFORE I FALL is an overwrought preachy film set in a world that is so artificial that it feels like a satire of YA films. Although there is likely an audience for this movie and its message, my guess is it falls somewhere in the 11--15 age range and skews heavily female. In a world where bathroom graffiti is pretty and preachy and a teen mean girl can transform into a licenced mediator and counselor for her friends due to a time warp ... we can all appreciate the beauty, instead, of Bill Murray and the original.