Before I Fall Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller. Directed by Ry Russo-Young. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
Although teenager Sam Kingston (Zoey Deutch) spends Before I Fall reliving the same day over and over like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, she doesn’t find anything funny about it, and neither do the filmmakers. Based on the bestselling young-adult novel by Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall is a clumsy, predictable morality play for teens, a few steps above an Afterschool Special thanks to its stylish look and Deutch’s strong lead performance.
An archetypal mean girl, Sam joins her popular, pretty friends in making fun of her school’s outcasts, but when she wakes up from a seemingly fatal car accident to face the same day over again, she starts on a journey to learn that bullying is bad and even morose weirdos have feelings. Despite its vaguely supernatural premise, Fall isn’t interested in the mechanics of Sam’s predicament or how she might escape; it’s a straightforward, obvious series of life lessons, as Sam comes to appreciate her family and her true friends, and to examine the consequences of her actions.
Director Ry Russo-Young, an indie veteran making the transition to the mainstream, doesn’t bring any dramatic complexity to the story, but she does give it an appealing visual style, bathing nighttime party scenes in red glow and taking advantage of the damp grayness of the Pacific Northwest setting. Deutch also manages to ground some of Sam’s exaggerated behavior and reactions in genuine human feeling, even if nearly all of her actions are blatantly contrived. The movie’s lessons are basic and belabored, and its presentation of them is only slightly more sophisticated.