“Before I Fall” is a YA adaptation that actually works

Image result for before i fall movie“Before I Fall”

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is the typical American teenage girl.  She lives in an upper middle-class neighborhood with her parents and little sister, with whom she doesn’t have the greatest relationship.  She has clique of popular, good-looking, loyal friends and an even more popular boyfriend.  At a party thrown by a childhood friend (who looks like he’s a member of the band Death Cab for Cutie) on a Friday night, Samantha and her fellow mean girls humiliate a fellow classmate, causing her to run off in embarrassment.  On their drive home, they lose control of their SUV.  Following the crash, Samantha finds herself back in her bedroom, unharmed, on that same Friday morning.  She soon finds out that she lives in an endless cycle where no matter what she does, “Dangerous” by Big Data will wake her up every morning.

Before I Fall quickly gets on the viewer’s nerves.  Our protagonist has an opening monologue that sounds like your typical “life is precious” piece written in a hundred screenplays before it.  The music pre-crash is the kind of music that is too emo for both Sirius XM Hits One and Alt Nation.  The girls are (at first glance) stereotypes: the tallest, prettiest, meanest blonde; the slightly smarter raven-haired young lady; and the fourth-fiddle minority who exists for diversity reasons.  There are numerous redubbed lines to get the coveted PG-13 rating.  The party scene is like every other party scene in every other teen movie, sans humor.

Then the second crash happens.  After that, the cogs begin to turn in unison and Samantha is the one who turns the gears.  She inherited her mother’s charm and adds her own level of screen presence that can’t be taught.  As Samantha learns more and more about the pickle she’s in, we delve into more and more situations that aren’t original but the direction by Sundance darling Ry Russo-Young and Maria Maggenti’s adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel keep the movie afloat.

There are still cracks in the foundation along the way.  On the day Sam decides to let loose, it’s only half-assed where the screenplay decides to combine it with the day or two where she meets with the characters who Sam has been neglecting over the years.  As much as the two sides work to varying degrees, they don’t work together.  The movie is only 99 minutes long so there was no reason to rush.  Throughout the runtime, we learn plenty about five of the eight characters Sam wants to change her relationship with and learn just enough of a sixth in order for the turn to work.  The problem here is that the two characters where it doesn’t work are the two secondary best friends, who should have been given priority since they are part of the reason why she is in this predicament.

Without spoiling anything, I must commend the filmmakers for having the audacity of having THAT ending.  Every single moment is telegraphed down to the last frame and the last line of the closing monologue, but never in a million years would I have thought that a YA adaptation have that much of a conviction to a real ending.

Before I Fall is the perfect movie for the person who wanted a little more teen angst in Groundhog Day.  Despite this derogatory statement and the dull first act, the movie eventually wins the audience over with the lead actress’ charisma and a script that isn’t afraid to end the right way.  I know it seems there is more negative than positive here but Before I Fall has moments that felt the best of Friday Night Lights.

3 out of 5