Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’17: Before I Fall
teenager Samantha Kingston has one day to grow up and become a decent person.
Ordinarily, that would not be nearly enough time, but this is a Groundhog kind
of day. It usually ends with her and her friends dying in a car wreck, but it
turns out she has even more profoundly bad karma to level in Ry Russo-Young’s Before I Fall (trailer here), which screens
during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
and her three BFFs know they are “mean girls” and they embrace it. Their queen
bee Lindsay Edgecomb is by far the meanest of the pack. Ally Harris is the
brainy one (by their standards) and Elody is the ditzy one. Kingston would
probably be best described as the passive one, up until this fateful day. It is
Cupid’s Day (the PC variation on Valentine’s Day), which is a big deal at their
school. To perversely emphasize popularity, the school has institutionalized a
rose delivery ritual. Kingston and her mates will be showered with roses, but
not Juliet Sykes, their favorite bullying target.
horribly humiliating Sykes at a kegger thrown by Kent McFuller, Kingston’s not
so secret nice guy admirer, the fab four drive off into a fatal accident, at
which point the day restarts for Kingston. Initially, Kingston assumes she can
break the cycle if she can prevent the accident, but after another Cupid Day
goes by, she realizes she will have to save Sykes too.
fact, screenwriter Maria Maggenti’s adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s YA novel goes
through many iterations of the momentous day, but each one covers very different
narrative (and even thematic) terrain. It might be cheesy and manipulative, but
it never drags. Despite Kingston’s necessary introspective self-examination, Russo-Young
keeps the pace snappy and includes some subtle, unforced echoes from previous go-rounds.
it or not, the ridiculously attractive young ensemble also demonstrates some
impressive dramatic chops. Zoey Deutch takes a star-making turn as Kingston.
She shows considerable range and holds up to the pressure of carrying the film—in
each and every scene. Cynthy Wu and Medalion Rahimi add some surprisingly
offbeat charm as Ally and Elody, respectively, while Logan Miller’s McFuller
develops some surprisingly touching chemistry with Deutch. However, young Erica
Tremblay as Izzy, the young sister Kingston is nearly too late to appreciate,
steals every scene she appears in.
Nobody could deny Fall gets massively sentimental and schmaltzy. By the same token, credit
must be given for how effectively it unfolds. It is probably the guilty
pleasure at this year’s festival. Recommended
for its target audience of young adult girls, Before I Fall screens again this Friday (1/27) at Sundance Mountain
Resort and Saturday (1/28) in Park City, as part of this year’s Sundance.
Labels: films based on YA novels, Sundance '17