Reliving mean girl teen rudeness.
It’s been well over six months since I’ve done a book to film comparison, and given there have been a plethora of titles released recently I thought I’d better pull my finger out 😉
I started reading ‘Before I Fall’ a few times, abandoning it and returning before making any head way. All the immaturity, the teen girl snarkiness and bullying was just so tiresome. Plus the Groundhog styled repetition of the same day lagged the pacing. However I didn’t get that same lengthiness and drag from the film.
I didn’t particularly like Sam for most of the novel. She wears the moniker ‘bitch’ unapologetically and seems to pinball from one social scene to the next, swaying under the banner of peer pressure and grasping to remain at the top of the social hierarchy. Then about halfway through the novel things changed. Sam became much more interesting, her choices became more altruistic. I laughed so hard in her ‘rebellious’ day it added a much needed punch to a novel I was starting to find boring. In contrast the film version of Sam (played by Zoey Deutch – and the main reason I wanted to see this film) seemed to be more of an observer and the quiet one of the group, where in the book she is much more involved in the bullying and teen drama.
Additionally, the sex scene with Rob (her teacher) was messed up – didn’t even know if they have sex, but it is heavily alluded to in the film, whereas the novel kept it at heavy flirtation.
One big difference in the plot was in the book she only repeats the day seven times – it’s much more in the film with numerous versions of the day being flashed up on the screen montage-style.
The supporting cast felt all “very teen” – wrapped up in their own dramas and self-importance. So the characterization was bang on, though I had little patience for their carry on. Sheesh I felt so old reading this book. It didn’t have quite that impact on me with the film version – while they were still representing teens drinking, partying and being rebellious, it didn’t feel as frustrating. Possibly because that behaviour was given less screen time in comparison to the dominance in the story line.
‘Before I Fall’ has a pretty easy writing style, a plain melodic beat that once the pace picked up in the second half of the novel, I flew through. I liked the tone the novel set: it glances at repercussions of behaviour, atonement, bullying, suicide, depression, compassion, and acceptance. For such a wishy-washy teen babbling premise, it alludes to some much more serious issues. The movie kept the concept and tone (and the message) but overall the narrative felt flat and drawn out (but better than the written version). It took a while for the story to get its legs and many of the characters really aren’t that nice of people. But they redeem themselves in increments… something I didn’t really get from the novel.
I found there was also some missed context in some of the scenes of the film – they did not make a whole lot of sense, where in the book there was always an explanation. I think those who have not read the novel before viewing the movie may not quite grasp the relevance of some scenes.
I’d recommend the novel to lovers of YA who don’t mind a slow developing story. Plenty of drama and hijinks. Weird in some places, but the cyclical structure of the story resolves everything nicely. And like the proverbial light in the opening scene, you see it coming and there is nothing you can do to avoid it. The movie was fun – and if you only thought it was okay – and don’t attempt the novel. The visual summarisation is slightly more entertaining in my opinion.
Id’ give the novel 3 ¼ out of 5 stars, and the film a 3 ½ … close, but the film for the win.
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