Before I Fall Review: Groundhog Day for Teens
Before I Fall is essential the Young Adult version of Groundhog Day, with a hint more of complexity to it. Unfortunately, some of the films complexity gets lost in the hollowness of every character minus the lead protagonist, Sam (Zoey Deutch). Before I Fall is riddled with wonderful ideas, gorgeous cinematography and an excellent performance from Zoey Deutch. Unfortunately, those ideas can’t save it from the eye rolling teen moments, cliches, and stereotypical characters that are cringe worthy.
Before I Fall follows Sam and her friends, who call themselves “bitches.” Lead by the unapologetic Lindsay (Halston Sage) and her band of merry mean-girls. As for Sam, she starts off having a very “I don’t give a shit” attitude. She’s mean and rude to both her mother and sister and downright cruel to a social outcast named Juliet (Elena Kampouris). However, Sam is “Miss Popular,” if you will. She has everything any high school girl could dream of, she’s gorgeous, has a ton of friends, and her peers bow at her feet as she walks through the hallways.
We meet Sam as she’s very giddy and excited to drunkenly lose her virginity that night to her boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley). The date is February 12th, also known as “Cupid Day” at her school. Naturally, these girls go to a party that night, and when events turn arise after the four throw their drinks at poor Juliet, the popular “bitches,” decide to leave the party. While driving home, Lindsay’s SUV hits something, causing her car to flip, killing all four of the girls.
Or so it may seem?
What happens after these events are Sam reliving that same day, February 12th, every day until she can figure out how to stop it. This same cycle keeps repeating, no matter what Sam does in an attempt to stop it. This is where Before I Fall finds itself trying at something greater than it is, and while it’s not always successful, Zoe Deutch gives an incredible performance that is frankly too good for the movie itself.
Deutch ranges from the popular high school girl cliché to a much more layered and mature performance. Once she begins to realize that this isn’t quite Deja Vu, Sam lives the same day while approaching it from several different perspectives in hopes that once the clock strikes 12:39 am, her and her friends won’t be dead.
The dominant themes in Before I Fall are all about second chances, seeing beyond what is superficial and aspiring to look at what matters in life. The message, ideas, and progression of the character Sam are all well told for the most part, even though the story and pacing didn’t quite add up to one singular tone. The way Deutch modifies her mood as she relives each day is a natural progression that is believable and even endearing at points.
There’s a scene towards the end of the film, which Sam has a conversation with Juliet, that was just extraordinary. Excellently written, acted, and aesthetically gorgeous to the themes involved. It’s also great to see Sam see her family through different eyes as she relives the same day. You want Sam to be a better person towards her mother, and it pains you when she is rude and unappreciative. However, as clichéd as some of the story elements are, you can’t deny the “warm and fuzzy” feeling you get when these revelations come full circle.
The ending is bittersweet, poignant, and if I dare say, unearned. I didn’t feel the impact the ending was going for, I wanted to, but I just didn’t. This is due to a rushed final act, that tried to make the events that happen previously justified, but I couldn’t help but want more. I wanted to see a more contained story of Sam struggling internally, a story of her finding herself without annoying side characters getting in the way.
The clichés were a bit much, and minus two excellent performances, the acting fell flat. However, I will say that Before I Fall is one of the more “adult” young adult adaptations we have ever seen on the big screen, and for its targeted audience, it’s a win.
Before I Fall opens on March 3rd, 2017