Director: Courteney Cox
Starring: Sean William Scott, Olivia Thirlby, Garret Dillahunt
Release Date: 24th April 2015 (US)
You may recognise Sean William Scott from such goofball comedies as American Pie, American Pie 2, American Pie: The Wedding, American Reunion, and Role Models. His loud, smug typecast has defined the career of an actor who has never quite found the right game changer. That is until Just Before I Go, in which he plays suicidal thirtysomething Ted Morgan in this dark comedy drama that, ironically, has been undervalued almost as much as its protagonist.
The film opens with a rather typical review of Ted’s life to the present day, showing the sparse highs amid the many lows which have propelled him to the point of ending it all. This he has now come to accept, but before he goes he returns to his hometown for some closure and final goodbyes. Little does he know, though it comes as no surprise to the audience, that he might just find a reason to stay alive after all.
There’s a bittersweet undertone throughout, largely emphasised by the opening shot of Ted drowning in the water, which all but confirms the seemingly inevitable outcome of our doomed story. Scott plays the lead with surprising charm and subtlety, toning down his usual goofy theatrics for something more nuanced, more believable and definitely more investable.
There are some moments of facre, where Cox allows her sitcom background to shine through, though she does it with care and, though it doesn’t always work, embeds these scenes within the story so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb. For example, Ted’s sister-in-law’s sleep masturbation problem is absurd and almost silly, but they manage to bring it back at the last minute and flick a switch which uses this to imbue layers of depth into her marriage with Lucky. It has the feel of Garden State in its deadpan delivery of maudlin material, and with a surprising number of A-list cameos thanks to the director’s bulging contact book.
However, Scott and his co-stars, particularly Olivia Thirlby and a brief appearance from Beth Grant as the mean former school teacher Mrs. Lawrence, are memorable and strong, deserving of more attention and more praise.
Just Before I Go should have been the turning point for the career of its lead, and still can be if only it gets the exposure it needs. Hopefully it will stand the test of time alongside The Way, Way Back as one of the best indies of the decade, and our fan club will expand in restrospect.