If you’ve ever wondered what Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day might have looked like if it weren’t a comedy sans the sardonic and cantankerous Bill Murray and instead catered to the post-Twilight arena of blue-tinted high-school female adolescence, then Nobody Walks director Ry Russo-Young’s Before I Fall is for you. If you’re as jaded as the audience I saw Before I Fall with, you’ll hear a myriad of snickers and soft whispers of contempt emanating throughout the auditorium. When it ended, there was laughter and even more groans about sitting through a tween version of Ramis’ aforementioned classic.
Based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall tells the tale of a group of mean girls with one of them stuck reliving the same cupid day over and over, trapped either in Hell, purgatory, or just a bad movie. Despite earnest performances with helpful life lessons about learning to be accepting of others and not simply trying to fit into the disingenuous in-crowd, Before I Fall comes dangerously close to rivalling the prepubescent schmaltz of the recently released dud The Space Between Us. While not anywhere near as dry and dull as that box office bomb turned out to be, Before I Fall doesn’t do a whole lot to separate itself from that ilk of storytelling.
That’s not to say the film isn’t well acted, directed or shot. The highlights of Before I Fall really are the Vancouver and British Columbian locations, which the film goes out of it’s way to establish over and over again. With images of houses isolated deep in the mountains with white peaks looming over the schoolyard grounds, we’re given a terrific setting that gets squandered on an average movie we’ve seen one too many times over the years. Also trying is the electro score by Adam Taylor, which sounds like a frank imitation of Cliff Martinez if he listened to Glass Candy for hours on end. Though I’m an avid fan of electronic music, especially in film, both this and last year’s Nerve went so far out of their way musically to sound like a Refn film that it was more distracting than engrossing.
Somewhere in Before I Fall is a good natured but overly melodramatic crossbreed between Mean Girls and The Edge of Seventeen, though my friendly recommendation is to go for the latter film as it encapsulates the female adolescent high school experience with greater clarity and far more emotional resonance than anything in this maudlin exercise in tedium. Also far better at capturing the teenage experience is Richard Linklater’s vastly underrated Everybody Wants Some, featuring leading lady Zoey Deutch who fares well here but is otherwise stuck in a film that fails to give us something we haven’t seen before. Teen viewers who aren’t necessarily seasoned moviegoers may get something out of Before I Fall while the rest of us kept checking our watches in between a heavy dose of eye rolling.
- Andrew Kotwicki