Thursday, September 10, 2015

Before We Go (2014) segues Chris Evans from actor to director

Photo Credit: Before We Go / RADiUS
Alex (Chris Evans), a trumpet player, collides with Brooke (Alice Eve), an outsider who has been robbed. After failing to catch her train home, she reluctantly teams up with him to track down her belongings amidst the New York City that never sleeps. As time passes, revelations of their lives and insecurities rise to the surface bringing out an attraction in each other.

Life sometimes really stinks. If you're going to struggle, it's best to find someone you can compatibly struggle with. Before We Go centers around this romantic notion, but its hopeful ideal works against itself.

Alex is pretty damn charming. I mean, he earns the Mr. Nice Guy award for the year. Nothing deters him from trying to help Brooke, and his intentions to be at her side doesn't come off in a lecherous way. He is trustworthy, a bit broken from a past relationship, and a hopeless romantic at heart. Alex could have come off as too saccharine to be believable. Like his simmering performance in Snowpiercer, Evans brings a solid sincerity to his character. To be honest, I don't care who you are, if you have a pulse you like Evans. He comes across as charming as hell off-screen, so he has a rare thoughtful presence on-screen too.

On Brooke's end, she is wonderfully stubborn, cautious, and also tenacious and passionate, and Eve brings those qualities out with assurance. She emits a lot of valid skepticism towards a stranger's kindness in the middle of the night in a dangerous city without money or a place to crash until morning. She has a lot of issues in her own life boiling to the surface, and at times that solidifies her on-edge emotions. It's refreshing that Brooke didn't just put all of her faith into someone who could have taken advantage of her.

Alex's wide-eyed personality doesn't necessarily mesh with Brooke's. This allows for some tension between them but it's not exactly the kind of tension that is scorching off the screen. Her distrust of Alex remains for far too long. Her behavior becomes off-putting after a while and eventually weakens that lightning-caught-in-a-bottle connection. After he proves himself to be an authentically kind person, her guarded behavior becomes uninteresting.

First-time director Evans utilizes this film as a directing class, and he captures some genuine, emotive performances while also serving as the lead actor. Placing his interest behind a project he personally connected with; that experience of having a connection or date that changes your life, there is a personalized attention to how the characters open up to each other. As much as I feel like I've seen this kind of movie before, he conducts a nice, refreshing ambiance. It's a sweet and genuine production, but it just doesn't rise to the occasion on the romance front.

What's difficult, unusually, is not really having the patience it takes to withstand the will-they-or-won't-they ploy work out.  Two people dancing around each other's attraction through a metropolitan city as an awakening to their own pasts and fears is always an attractive watch. Several obstacles bring these two closer together, but at points it seems like their union is a bit forced. Crafted by four writers, their culminated experience doesn't add enough weight from I'd expect with so many names attached to the script. The performances are fine but that chemistry just misses the mark.

Evan's first feature film is not embarrassingly bad. Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise is an obvious similar film. Before We Go comparably draws on the same easy-going atmosphere of a duo passing the breeze. A hindrance to his directorial debut is the line drawn in the sand between the main characters early on that hangs around for too long. The film is charming for a hopeless dreamer because it has some lovely, if not cliche moments, but the impact may not be as strong from similar films.
Rating: ★★☆
Have you seen Before We Go? What did you think?

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