By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
If I were to sit down and make a list of things I ever thought I’d say about a movie, one of the last things on that list would be “it’s kind of a cross between ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Groundhog Day.;”
But that’s exactly what we’ve been given in director Ry Russo-Young’s adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel “Before I Fall.”
The story centers around Samantha (Zoey Deutch), a high school senior who – surprisingly – prefers the company of her pretty, popular friends Lindsay (Halston Sage), Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu) to that of her family. And, despite – or probably due to – their popularity, the quartet isn’t exactly nice to those they deem below them – namely school outcast Juliet (Elena Kampouris).
With their senior year winding down, the friends are ready to party and Samantha is ready to “become a woman” at the hands of her (apparently) dreamy boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley).
But things don’t go according to plan at a party hosted by Samantha’s not-so-secret admirer Kent (Logan Miller). Rob drinks too much and passes out and Juliet shows up and picks a fight with the girls. Oh yeah, and on their drunken drive home the girls get into a car accident and Samantha dies.
But Samantha’s problems are only just beginning as she wakes up in her own bed with a serious case of deja vu … day after day after day after day. No matter what she does, she relives the day she dies over and over again and nothing she does seems to turn the calendar a day ahead. Eventually, she simply starts doing and saying whatever she wants in hopes of changing anything.
I’ve been sitting on my thoughts on “Before I Fall” for well over a week now, and I still haven’t been able to sort them out.
First, it really is a thinly-veiled re-imagining of “Groundhog Day.” It’s not a shot-for-shot copy – like one young man in the theater was trying to explain to his overly emotional girlfriend – but there are too many similarities for it to be a coincidence. And truthfully, if you’re going to put a new twist on a classic film, this is a good place to start. Plus, it’s been long enough now – and the target markets are not at all the same – that it will seem fresh to most in attendance.
Second, the acting is nothing special, but it’s somehow memorable. For me the standouts were Sage as the alpha female who’s more damaged than she is evil, and Erica Tremblay who plays Samantha’s younger sister, Izzy. The adorable youngster – and younger sister of “Room” star Jacob Tremblay – steals every scene she’s in.
Aside from that, I really can’t think of anything fantastic or awful about “Before I Fall.” It’s not great and it’s not bad. It just sort of exists in this weird movie purgatory for its roughly 90-minute run time. I found myself really wanting it to either get really good or really bad, rather than just carefully toeing the line between the two.
Instead, Russo-Young and screenwriter Maria Maggenti played it safe and created a decent, but easily forgettable story.
★★★ of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.