close menu
Mean Girls Drive Us Mad in BEFORE I FALL (Review)

Mean Girls Drive Us Mad in BEFORE I FALL (Review)

What if you had to live one day of your life over, and over, and over until you fully understood how even your most casual interactions impact those around you? That’s the premise at the center of Before I Fall, a teen mystery adapted from Lauren Oliver‘s YA novel. On its surface, its an intriguing idea, a Groundhog Day plot that focuses on a pretty and popular high school senior on a day that seems like any other. That is until it ends in her abrupt death, and then reboots to the morning before. Unfortunately, a rich concept is spoiled on a self-centered and self-righteous protagonist, who inspires exasperation more than empathy.

Before I Fall follows 17-year-old Samantha Kingston (Vampire Academy’s Zoey Deutch), who flits through the halls of her high school with her three best friends, gossiping, talking boys and popularity, and bullying anyone who dares to cross their path. The jeering quartet dubs their openly lesbian classmate a “bull dyke.” They brag about the reputations they’ve ruined via Snapchat shares. And they relentlessly harass sullen misfit Juliet (Elena Kampouris). As she silently shuffles past their lunch table, the girls grin like hyenas as they call her “psycho” and howl that she smells like urine. Samantha and her squad are mean girls so vicious they even chase Juliet out of a house party by spitting insults at her and chucking Solo cups of beer in her face. Then they die in a car accident.

In some teen movies (like Mean Girls), that moment might play as climactic comeuppance for their malicious ways. But in Before I Fall, it’s just the first terrible thing Samantha tries desperately to avoid in her repeated day. Not the bullying, mind you, just the part where karma repays them for it. Amid a teacher’s ignored lesson on Sisyphus’s punishing loop, and a half-hearted conversation about the butterfly effect, Samantha struggles to understand why this day is the one she’s stuck reliving. She quickly moves from confounded to infuriated, rebelling against this time trap by swapping her baby blue shirt-dress for an ultra low-cut black mini-dress, complete with dangerously high-heeled ankle boots and willfully smudged black eyeliner. Further mood changes are reflected in studded boots, simple sneakers, and finally a crop-topped sweat suit. Regrettably, the film itself is just as superficial, lacing the production design with circles (so many loops!) and butterflies (like the effect!), but offering nothing in the way of meaningful character development.

Eventually, Samantha realizes this looping day is a chance for self-reflection and change. She need not be a mean girl who dates a cute but uncaring boy just because “everybody wants to hook up with him.” She need not be silent when her group’s smirking ringleader Lindsay (a charismatic even when mean Halston Sage) torments her peers. She need not push away the love of her concerned mother (Jennifer Beals) and idolizing little sister (Erica Tremblay). Basically, she need not be a “bitch.” But what Samantha chooses to be instead is not as impressive as she thinks.

I don’t usually get into the third act in movie reviews. But Before I Fall left me livid, so I want you warned of exactly how it fails its audience. Spoilers ahead.

In the third act, Samantha finally starts saying not-nasty to nice things to the classmates she’d previously mocked or brazenly ignored. And we’re meant to think she’s become less shallow because instead of chasing the hot guy who treats her badly, she gives in to a Nice Guy (Logan Miller) who fawns over her, even though she doesn’t seem at all interested in him. This bad lesson declares that if a guy is nice to a girl, he deserves her love and devotion, and how she feels about him is incidental. But most galling of all, Samantha never even attempts to stop her friends from publicly and viciously shaming and assaulting Juliet at the party.

Continually caught up in her own dramas (mostly with boys and her own self-worth), Samantha repeatedly refuses to take a stand for Juliet when she knows how damaging that moment will be. Then the story crashes into an abrupt and infuriating end that has Samantha letting herself–and her still mean girl friends–off the hook because she lived one, single day as a decent person. Being not horrible is not enough to make her a hero, just as being not a boob-grabbing sex hound isn’t cause enough to make Miller’s pining creeper a worthy crush. The standards for teens here are so low that Before I Fall trips on them.

This movie is obliviously callous and vexingly vapid, delivering a story of a conceited girl who somehow makes a journey about learning to treat others with respect and care into being all about her. In the end, as Samantha beams with self-acceptance, I was hoping for one last loop so she might escape out her own ass. But instead Before I Fall fell to black, and left me groaning.

1 out of 5 burritos

1 burrito

The Sexy Jeff Goldblum Funko You've Always Wanted

The Sexy Jeff Goldblum Funko You've Always Wanted

article
The World's Smallest Cat is Impossibly Adorable

The World's Smallest Cat is Impossibly Adorable

article
Watch 6 James Bonds Battle Each Other

Watch 6 James Bonds Battle Each Other

article