Before I Fall full movie review - "Before I Fall" is an intriguing and deep, but disappointing morality tale.
If you watch enough movies, you know that a few lucky(?) people get the chance to live a short period of time in their lives over and over again until they get it "right".
Movie Fans saw this situation play out in "Project Almanac" (2015), "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014), "About Time" (2013), "Source Code" (2011), "Déjà Vu" (2006) and, most notably, "Groundhog Day" (1993), a movie that became so well-known that its title has become synonymous with the "time loop" phenomena. Whether it's because of time travel or some mysterious force in the universe, whether it's a vehicle for action/adventure, drama or comedy, these films tickle the imagination and appeal to both the sense of regret and the hope for a better future that we all feel in our lives at various points. The 2017 addition to the above list is the drama "Before I Fall" (PG-13, 1:39) in which a high school senior gets trapped in an unexplained time loop on the day of her death and she tries to take the opportunity to set a few things right before she dies.
Samantha "Sam" Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is part of tight-knit clique of mean girls for whom it seems that every day is pretty much the same (until it becomes literally the same for Sam). She wakes up to her cell phone alarm at 6:50 a.m. and she starts getting ready for school. In the process, she treats her loving little sister (Erica Tremblay) rudely, blows off breakfast with her family and acts dismissively towards her well-meaning parents (Jennifer Beals and Nicholas Lea). Sam's day only really seems to start when her bestie, Lindsay (Halston Sage), shows up to drive her to school. Along the way, they pick up the other half of their group, Ally (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medallion Rahimi), who join in on the mutual teasing, the gossip and the general pettiness. And the shallowness just continues in class as Sam's earnest young history teacher (Diego Boneta) embarks on his daily struggle of competing for his students' attention.
There are a couple things different on this day, however. It's Friday February 12th, "Cupid Day" at school, and the girls talk about how many roses each of them will receive from their friends, admirers and crushes through the student delivery service. This is also the day that Sam has chosen to surrender her virginity to her boyfriend, Rob (Kian Lawley). As the girls discuss Sam's big night, they take a break to taunt the school's designated social outcast, Juliet Sykes (Elena Kampouris), when she walks by them in the school cafeteria. Later, in the hallway, Sam's childhood friend, Kent McFuller (Logan Miller), invites her to a party, which she says that she will not be attending. Sam and her friends do end up going, as does Rob. But when Sam sees how drunk Rob is, and after a raucous confrontation with Juliet, the self-centered quartet leave the party, only to get into a deadly wreck on a 2-lane road at exactly 12:39 a.m.
The next morning, Sam seems perfectly fine as her alarm wakes her up in her bed at 6:50 a.m. At first, she thinks it's a mistake, but she notices that her family, and then her friends, are saying and doing the same things they said and did the day before. Sam then starts to think that she's in a dream? or maybe she just dreamed the previous day. When the day goes exactly the same as the last day that she remembers and then she again wakes up in her bed and the cycle repeats, she starts to wonder if she has died and is in hell. It is a hell of sorts, a personal hell in which nothing that she says or does differently makes any real difference in the day's outcome. As she relives this day an indeterminate number of times, she is able to change some details which reveals more about what was happening in the background of the lives of her friends and family. All of this forces Sam to decide what to do with her increased knowledge and greater understanding of life? and to see if she can change how the day ends.
"Before I Fall" is an intriguing and deep, but disappointing morality tale. Based on the 2010 novel by Lauren Oliver, and as adapted by Maria Maggenti and directed by Ry Russo-Young, the premise is interesting and the life lessons are valuable, but the space in between isn't very exciting. The repetition of the day is more like what we saw in the laborious 2008 thriller "Vantage Point" than in the entertaining comedy "Groundhog Day". As with the former, the reveals along the way are significant, but aren't enough to carry the film. With a little "Butterfly Effect" theory thrown in, there is much to learn here (especially for the teenage target audience), but it seems doubtful that many Movie Fans will remain engaged long enough for the resolutions of the story's threads to have the desired impact. What's more, most of the characters are hard to like and the ending is frustrating. Deep thinkers are more likely to appreciate the film, but most who see it will probably find it rather boring. It's a shame. Underneath it all, there seems to be a great movie trying to get out. It just doesn't quite make it. "B-"