Depth and meaningful drama are lost in Courteney Cox’s directorial debut

He was bullied. His wife left him. His father died when he was young. They took his dog. No wonder Ted Morgan is suicidal. Life has been a loss for Morgan and in turn, for this movie.

Just Before I Go topples itself with an over-abundance of themes. Remembrance, forgiveness, remorse, judgment, acceptance. It’s a torrent of scattered ideas and characters pushed into the story for the sake of making a point – or many points. Far too many, actually. Issues of homophobia and fat acceptance are punched into the narrative flow at will, strangling any semblance of character for Sean William Scott’s Morgan. He simply becomes a good listener.

Bouncing between issues causes Just Before I Go to slip unconsciously into heavy drama. Everyone in this small town has a history of melodramatically dead relatives, dead wives, or dead parents. Morgan has come back to his hometown to reconcile his past before killing himself, stumbling into a scenario which would only push him closer. It is depressing to hear these stories, let alone engage with them as a passive audience.

The point is admirable. The execution is dreadful.

Such a film is well meaning. Understanding – yet another theme – should bring people of all shapes, colors, and beliefs together. The point is admirable. The execution is dreadful. Just Before I Go begins with Scott in full American Pie mode, wagging middle fingers and exchanging childish expletives in full range of the hard R-rating. His on-screen brother (Garret Dillahunt) breaks the barrier of political correctness with frequency, married to Kate Walsh who suffers from bouts of sleep masturbation.

All of this from a dramatic film about suicide.

Situations are so broadly applicable, they can suit none. Scenarios are deliberately told, force feeding societal messages en masse until Just Before I Go nears a breaking point. That point leads to a series of smiles in a master shot so abhorrently phony as to insinuate the cure for one’s ills is a failed suicide attempt. Gross.

What a bizarre piece of sort-of-positivity this movie is – a chunk of enlightenment intending to bring out good vibes through humor, yet breaking relationships and lives to get there. It’s cruel, seemingly unknowingly so, through its ultimate inclusiveness. Morgan becomes important through doing right and acting out his life fantasy, sucking out the endless anger without displaying maturation himself. It’s more of an accident for him, too easy and too comfortable in an effort to be meaningful. By the time Just Before I Go is using physical apparitions of dinosaurs as metaphors, it is most definitely time to go. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Underwater @ 1:58

Just Before I Go is a noisy little sucker, pushing artifacts into the frame with some regularity. Backgrounds tend to buzz more often than is acceptable. Imagery is coming from the lower budgeted end of cinematography, shifting toward television rather than film. It’s drama on a budget and each shot reflects such.

None of this is awful. In fact this feature is consistent in capturing high frequency information with plentiful facial detail and clean exteriors. Resolution and sharpness are provided by whatever digital camera is capturing the feature. The use of blooming to some extent is miniscule.

Looking its low budget part means limited experimentation in color timing, keeping flesh tones (generally) natural with a mild coat of warmth added. The sense of an artificial coating of orange is notably pushed onto each shot. Still, primaries have their perkiness.

Contrast is hefty, aided by the blooming. Black levels are satisfying too when called upon. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Sonically, Just Before I Go is a movie with nothing going on short of its soundtrack. Bass lines will catch the subwoofer enough to be felt and other instruments will spread from the center to add some space. Lyrics pop from the center.

Though it offers limited action, even when intensity rises there is no attempt to reach out from the center. Ambiance is lost if any is offered. Dialog is legible though. That’s what matters. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]

Courteney Cox marks her directorial debut with Just Before I Go by adding her thoughts through a commentary track. Her solo chat is the lone bonus. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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