Poor February. As if it isn’t bad enough that it’s a cold and dreary month throughout much of the United States, it’s also the month rewarded with the dubious honor of being the shortest, as well as the one to which a day is added during leap years. To add insult to injury, there are also the complications that come with Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) and Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14).
Directed by Ry Russo-Young from a screenplay by queer writer/filmmaker Maria Maggenti (“The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love”) based on the YA novel by Lauren Oliver, “Before I Fall” (Open Road), draws on both Valentine’s Day (referred to as Cupid’s Day) and the movie “Groundhog Day.” Samantha (Zoey Deutch), is one of four mean girls (sound familiar?) – including Lindsay (Halston Sage), Elody (Medalion Rahimi) and Ally (Cynthy Wu) – known for tormenting the less fortunate (including class lesbian Anna played by Liv Hewson) and scoring big on the day that roses are delivered to classrooms on Cupid’s Day.
Samantha’s not particularly nice at home either, where she bosses around her little sister Izzy (Erica Tremblay) and draws a nail polish line across her bedroom threshold that her mother (Jennifer Beals of “The L Word” and “Flashdance” fame) isn’t allowed to cross. But her firepower only increases when she’s around her four besties.
Invited to attend a party at Kent’s (Logan Miller), Samantha plans to lose her virginity to hot Rob (Kian Lawley). Little does she know that she will also lose her life that night on a slippery Pacific Northwest road. But it doesn’t matter because the next morning, Samantha will wake up in her own bed, doomed to repeat the day. Of course, she’s the only one aware of that fact, and with each new/same day she experiences, there’s a new life lesson to be learned about family, friendship and fate.
To call “Before I Fall” gimmicky and formulaic is an understatement. Also, it exudes a YA novel adaptation aura. Nevertheless, Zoey Deutch (daughter of Lea Thompson and “Some Kind of Wonderful” director Howard Deutch) comes close to saving the movie from falling flat on its face. Rating: C+