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Review: Middling Movie Before We Go Lacks Purpose

2 1/2 out of 5.


There is a basic problem with the mathematics of Rotten Tomatoes. Currently, while writing this review, Before We Go has 0% positive score. OK, but definite bombs from this summer, like Fantastic Four or Pixels are at 9 and 17%. THE ROOM and Troll 2 have a higher approval rating on RT, and those films are considered the two worst movies ever made. Before We Go isn’t on the bad level of those films for sure. It’s a FAR better movie. It is better put together, better acted, even better looking than any of those films.

And even other critics aren’t calling Before We Go terrible—it just isn’t getting passing scores. If this were a grade, Before We Go would be getting something like a low C or C- minus. Chris Evans’ directorial debut certainly isn’t a failure. It isn’t even bad. It just feels redundant and uninspired. There is literally no reason to give this movie your money, but if you do, you probably won’t be asking for a refund or come out of the theater angry that you just wasted 90 minutes.

Well, maybe there is one reason you’re considering seeing this movie. His name is Chris Evans, and as we know from Captain America and Avengers, the guy is incredibly charming (Alice Eve can be too). But consider this for a second: Last year, Chris Evans gave one of his best performances ever with the challenging, smart, and fun Snowpiercer. In Before We Go, he’s just playing “a nice guy,” and he certainly isn’t very intelligent, funny, or charming in that role—or even bringing much of his own personality to the role.

Is he as irritating as he was in Play it Cool? No way, that movie was terrible. But as bad as that movie was, I can remember a lot more from it than I remember from this movie. And I JUST SAW THIS MOVIE. Honestly, this review is going to be really short, because barely anything registered as interesting to comment on or discuss. It’s kind of pleasant but also kind of boring and remains completely surface-deep from start to finish

And that problem with his character, and Eve’s, is the problem of the entire movie. This movie might be nice and kind of likable, but it’s also boring and completely forgettable. One of the keys is certainly the script, which is cliché-ridden and feels like something written by committee without a strong sense for their characters. And when you have four screenwriters, that’s likely true. The movie clearly draws inspiration from the Before Trilogy (the title Before We Go is not doing this film any favors), but those conversations were interesting and specific to the characters. And there have been interesting films inspired by those films, such as In Search of a Midnight Kiss or even Once, created really interesting characters to connect to. Nick and Brooke are dull and while not unlikable, certainly aren’t lovable characters to build a movie around. Even if played by two good and inherently engaging actors.

Evans can’t escape the blame as the director however. Evans and Eve aren’t as good in this movie as we’ve seen them, and I don’t see a director’s actor in Evans (yet), although perhaps acting in the film as well as directing may have been a mistake. I’m aware indie films often need star power, but it might not have been a wise sacrifice; he’s clearly still learning.

This feels like a training job by someone learning the technical skills of directing, and while a little shaky at times (literally, it looks a little shaky), he seems like a capable director. But there’s also something soulless in the direction, as if Evans was too concerned about the technical elements he was still learning and not completely invested in the story, characters, or themes.

I felt as if I were watching a film student’s film—something directing students learn and receive critiques on but isn’t meant to be viewed publicly or sell tickets. Ironically, we kind of saw the reverse from another first time actor turned director this year, with Ryan Gosling’s Lost River. That film had a lot of big ideas and strong, personal emotions on display; it just needed some technical polish. From what I saw, Evans clearly has the eye of a director. I just wish I saw a bit more heart.

Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.

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