Hot Take: Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cold out there today. IT’S GROUNDHOG DAY!!!… meets MEAN GIRLS!!! (And it’s actually not terrible.)
There are a lot of similarities between the way Before I Fall tells its story and two classic films with ardent fans who will likely not be too pleased with Before I Fall. It’s the nature of moviegoers to not particularly care for something that seemingly rips off something you find to be both high quality and original. The two movies — Groundhog Day and Mean Girls — along with the Lauren Oliver novel the movie is based on, shape Before I Fall into what ends up being an adequate film that can never escape the shadow cast by the two other films.
Before I Fall follows young Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) who seemingly has it all. On Cupid Day (which is apparently something different than Valentine’s Day… is it really a thing?), Samantha and her friends — the most popular girls in high school — live it up like always, attend a raging party, have a run-in with the outcast of the school and, on their way home, suffer a fatal accident… only Samantha wakes up at 6:50am on Cupid Day and is forced to relive the day over and over again. Hence, the Groundhog Day comparisons.
Eventually, Samantha realizes she can do whatever she wants which is very similar to Phil Connors’ realization in Groundhog Day. This is where the film draws most of its parallels to the classic Harold Ramis film as we follow Samantha through her day loop and through some rather large mood swings. Throughout the loop, Samantha realizes her and her friends aren’t the nicest people and are actually pretty deplorable. Her friend Lindsay Edgecombe (Halston Sage) is the Regina George of the foursome which makes Samantha the Cady Heron of the group. She eventually has the same realization as Bill Murray’s Phil in that she has to live the day right.
Before I Fall focuses on interpersonal relationships and the growth of its main character through her reliving the same day on repeat. Samantha spends time with her family and realizes she missed valuable quality time with her mom, dad and sister. She pays closer attention to how her and her friends have impacted those around them and realizes she might not be a very good person. She sees qualities in her boyfriend that question their relationship and qualities in another suitor that reignite a grade school crush. While the film feels awfully derivative, Deutch’s performance as Samantha is a splendid one and the supporting cast provides some shining moments as well.
Whether you like Before I Fall or not will likely depend on how much you can handle a film that isn’t breaking new ground and draws frequent parallels to the ghosts of Groundhog Day and Mean Girls. It never comes close to either of these behemoths but, for what it is, Before I Fall is a passable movie watching experience. It never completely borrows from either film and, in the end, establishes its own identity. That should be enough to keep the movie from being completely buried by those who want to burn the film in effigy. Before I Fall is what it is and that’s not terrible.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
Deutch is likely to be a star in the near future. Having spared myself the torture of seeing yet another James Franco movie, I did not see her in Why Him? but do remember her performance in Everybody Wants Some!! last year and despite it being a bit part remember her performance being memorable. The daughter of Lea Thompson delivers in Before I Fall which bodes well for future projects with her name attached.
- The High School Twist to Groundhog Day Actually Works?
Before I Fall is one of those films you walk into thinking there’s no way it’s going to work. For me, that never stops me from seeing a movie but it explains why its opening weekend was weak as others probably opted out even if they weren’t seeing Logan. However, while Before I Fall is mediocre overall, it’s nowhere near the miss it could have been and the plot device actually works well here. In some ways, it makes more sense, too.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- You’ll See Its Shadow
Before I Fall can never get away from the shadow of Groundhog Day or Mean Girls and that makes it difficult for a viewer who has seen both to give the film the complete attention it deserves. It’s almost like watching a remake in some instances as comparisons are drawn and opinions are shaped based on what those previous films did rather than what the film itself does.
- An Annoying Glitch
Something noticed early on, the characters of the film don’t always do the same thing when reliving their day. While this makes sense for Samantha who is actually reliving the day, it doesn’t make sense for the others especially when such changes occur in the first few minutes of her day. It’s a minor nuisance but one that sticks right through until the end of the film.