Yeah, we’ll get to Ant-man and the Wasp shortly. Meanwhile, we have another Summer Weekend Review of something we missed, last year’s most successful independent film, which crosses genres, including SF/Fantasy.

Think of Before I Fall as a sort of I Was A Teenage Groundhog Day.

Cast and Crew

Director: Ry Russo-Young
Written by Maria Maggenti, from the novel by Lauren Oliver

Zoey Deutch as Samantha Kingston
Halston Sage as Lindsay Edgecomb
Cynthy Wu as Ally Harris
Medalion Rahimi as Elody
Logan Miller as Kent McFuller
Kian Lawley as Rob Cokran
Elena Kampouris as Juliet Sykes
Erica Tremblay as Izzy Kingston
Liv Hewson as Anna Cartulo
Diego Boneta as Mr. Daimler
Jennifer Beals as Julie Kingston
Nicholas Lea as Dan Kingston

Available on Amazon Instant Video.

Premise

Based on Lauren Oliver’s apparently popular YA novel, Before I Fall takes the premise of Groundhog Day, adds Mean Girls and teen angst, and removes any sense of subtlety or wit.1

It’s Cupid Day at one of those American movie high schools where the teen students are 25-year-old hipsters whose parents own enormous houses. Sam is the most likeable of the Mean Girl Clique, and she’s planning to lose her virginity to her douchebag of a boyfriend after the Big Party that night. Along the way, the girls receive Valentine roses, send texts, and bully the supposedly psycho school outsider. The big night is afoot…

…And marked for tragedy.

Then Sam begins reliving it, over and over, with memories intact. She realizes she has something to fix, but she, like, just doesn’t know how.2

High Points

The movie, filmed around Squamish and Vancouver, looks great, and up-and-coming director Russo-Young knows how to handle the teen bonding moments. I suspect she’ll create something truly memorable in the next few years.

Low Point

The script overflows with self-serious glop and rings with hammer-to-the-head moralizing.

The Scores

Originality: 1/6 For the most part, we have a PG-14 After-School Special, Frankenstein-stitched together from the corpses of superior films.

Effects: 5/6 The film has a handful of visual effects, well-handled.

Acting: 5/6 The actors are talented, if too old for their roles. Zoey Deutch, in particular, is an actor to watch.

Emotional Response: 4/6

Story: 4/6 The story holds together, and it does feature an intriguing twist. Unlike Groundhog Day (the comparisons are inevitable, and the filmmakers had to know that would happen), this film doesn’t make the revisitings of the day interesting enough.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 3/6

In total, Before I Fall receives 28/42

Note

1. Malcolm Jameson’s short story “Doubled and Redoubled” (1941) may be the first notable use of the “Time Loop Day” premise, but it’s fair to say that Groundhog Day popularized it.

2. I have major concerns for Juliet Sykes. So our hero saves her friends and saves Juliet. We have a depressed, suicidal girl still, whom few people like, who will now live with a kind of survivor’s guilt and will be blamed– by the people who harassed her most– for Sam’s death. What will that look like?