This is what it would be like if Groundhog’s Day were a teen angst drama set in high school rather than a comedy.
Based on a successful YA novel, Before I Fall had a few moments, but they were few and far between as I saw a screen full of unlikable characters who I was constantly told about instead of seeing for myself.
The story itself made little sense and the characters made even less.
Sam (Zoey Deutch) was stuck. She found herself repeating the same day again and again, a day that ended in tragedy no matter what she would do. Whether it the car crash that she and her BFFs get into or the suicide of bullied victim Juliet (Elena Kampouris), the day ended terribly. Sam tried to do whatever she could to see that the day would stop repeating.
As she went along, she came to the belief that she was not the best of person and that she is as responsible as anyone for the tragedy that goes on around her.
The film’s overuse of exposition to explain the behaviors of Sam, Juliet and, especially Sam’s friend and biggest asshole in the film Lindsay (Halston Sage). I’m not sure if Lindsay was supposed to be some one the audience rooted for, but I just found myself calling her all kinds of names. I am still not sure that Lindsay learned any kind of lesson in the movie or made any sort of character progression. Apparently some bed wetting incident when she was in 5th grade lead to the formation of who she would become. They had made mention of this 5th grade incident earlier in the film and I thought they were building it up to something powerful. Instead, it was urination.
Yes, I know there was more than that, but none of it excuses Lindsay’s poor behavior and nor does it explain why Sam, who was also tormented by Lindsay during that fateful 5th grade year, becomes her closest friend. None of the motivation made any sense.
I could see Juliet getting to a place where she was suicidal, because it looked as if she had been picked on and verbally abused for years. However, the movie went out of its way to make Juliet look like an oddball, someone who you could expect top be picked on. The problem with that is all kinds of girls are tormented by bullies in high school. They do not have to be that different for it to happen. I think the film made her into this weirdo looking girl allow the audience to understand why your main protagonist and her friends are so cruel to the helpless girl. It provided a very surface reason and that is a very negative message to be sending. If Juliet wasn’t portrayed as a crazy teen, then the bullying would have been considerably more powerful. Of course, then you could not cheer for our attractive lead characters.
I have to say, I was also distracted through the film any time Sam’s little sister was on screen because she looked so much like Jacob Tremblay from Room. I actually had to look closely to make sure that it wasn’t Jacob with his long hair again. I found out later that this was actually Jacob’s sister Erica (who was also in the Bye Bye Man).
Coming back to the movie, we had every conceivable teen angst plot here and none of them felt like they mattered at all. I did not believe that someone like Sam would participate in the bullying or would even like Lindsay. I did not believe the day when Sam went all dark and emo because it did not matter. I did not believe her relationship with the popular kid (Kian Lawley). There was a random lesbian plot point with Liv Hewson (who is excellent in Santa Clarita Diet) that had nothing to do with the story at all.
And there were plot holes galore. One big one that involved the suicide of Juliet that truly made no sense.
Plus, there was no reason why Sam was the person going through this day. They tried to show her as a problem child, but I didn’t believe that at all either.
Then we kept hearing about all these past events that shaped these characters, but all that was talk. None of them felt important enough for them to show us so I dismissed all of them.
This was very disposable and dull, taking an important subject matter (harassment/bullying) and downplaying it. None of the character motivations made any sense and there were few characters worth rooting for. This idea worked so much better when it was a comedy starring Bill Murray. It did not work at all as a drama featuring rotten teenagers.