The story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is distilled to its essentials in a modern, thirtysomethings re-telling that focuses less on class and more on the relationships than the repercussions of the tangled storyline in Before the Fall.
In this version of the classic story we meet Ben Bennett (Ethan Sharrett), a dashing attorney in a sleepy Virginia town. Single, handsome, and a hopeless romantic. Ben is the big fish in the little pond, who spends his spare time hanging out with friends on the weekend, or occasionally dating his colleague, George Wickham.
This placid existence is turned upside down when the rough and tumble Lee Darcy (Chase Conner) comes to town. Wrongfully accused of domestic abuse, Darcy is a brooding Chris Isaac type who is taking a break from things by staying with a friend in the backwoods berg and laying low. During a chance meeting, our star attorney inadvertently insults Lance and comes off as a complete douchebag. Whateve’s right? No. The awkward exchange is made worse when the two are forced to spend time with one another during a group hike with mutual friends. Oh the drama.
“Far from perfect but not without a scrappy charm…”
We are given not-so-subtle telegraphs that Darcy is coming to terms with his own sexuality, while Bennet languishes in the guilt of besmirching Darcy in the community. The two begin to form a sort of ‘opposites attract’ chemistry and in the meantime, the people around them flit in and out of romantic misunderstandings.
The movie looks phenomenal, as do the most of the production values. Unfortunately, sound is a big issue that betrays only a cursory understanding of shooting interior scenes. Dialogue bounces off of low ceilings in an inconsistent, tinny way that doesn’t match with other moments in the film.
The script, based on the classic Austen novel, is a thesis waiting to be graded. There are moments of sheer inspiration mixed with cringe-worthy missteps. Making the comic relief an eccentric gay couple in the group of friends is inspired as is the moment that occurs at the end of the second act of the film involving Wickham and his relationship with our protagonist, Bennet. Then, there are. The moments during get togethers, in which Cathy Burge (Carol Marie Rinn) decides to ask insensitive questions about being gay, the gay community, and why people are ‘that way’. These moments are the films attempt at social commentary that come off heavy-handed and forced, begging the question, ‘Why is this bitch in their circle of friends again?’
Far from perfect but not without a scrappy charm, Before the Fall struggles to hide its low-budget roots with a glossy patina of magic hour lensing. There are moments of brilliance spotted with occasional gaps in quality that keep the film abundantly charming yet inescapably trapped in the ‘Lifetime original movie’ zone.
Before the Fall is worth VOD (**).
* Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)