Susan Granger’s review of “Before I Fall” (Open Road Films)
Lifting the supernatural premise of Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day,” this angst-riddled YA melodrama follows 17 year-old Samantha “Sam” Kingston (Zoey Deutch) who must re-live the same crucial Friday over and over again.
It happens to be Cupid’s Day in the Pacific Northwest, as Cascadia High School celebrates Valentine’s Day with “val-o-grams” rose deliveries that gauge every student’s popularity.
Self-centered Samantha has reached the pinnacle of the popularity poll, surrounded by three friends: Ally (Cynthy We), Elody (Medallion Rahimi) and domineering Lindsay (Halston Sage). Like many admittedly bitchy cliques, they cruelly pick on an ostracized outcast, wild-haired Juliet Sykes (Elena Kampouris).
What’s more existentially significant is that, for Samantha, this particular Friday precedes a party hosted by temporarily parent-less Kent McFuller (Logan Miller), who has adored Samantha since elementary school, even though she’s currently enamored with hard-drinking Rob (Kian Lawley).
Their frivolity is followed by a fatal car crash. Forced to repeat that day over and over again, Samantha eventually becomes enlightened, learning important life lessons, even if it’s too late.
Based on the best-selling novel by Lauren Oliver, it’s adapted by Maria Magnetti and directed by Ry-Russo Young. Problem is: Samantha is somewhat passive in this doomed timeline loop; things happen to her as timely morsels of pertinent information about her little sister (Erica Tremblay) and mother (Jennifer Beals), among others, are eventually revealed.
In addition, Zoey Deutch, who recently played Bryan Cranston’s college-age daughter in “Why Him?” appears too sophisticated to be convincing as a high-school senior – particularly since this film’s intended audience is adolescent girls.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Before I Fall” is an awkwardly schmaltzy 6, delivering a sympathetic “savor every moment” message about redemption and hope.