Movie Review: Before the Fall #AustenInAugustRBR

Please welcome Amelia from the Central New Jersey Jane Austen Society of North America!

When Adam asked for submissions for this year’s Austen in August I knew I wanted the excuse to finally rent and watch “Before the Fall.”  I had been looking forward to watching the movie when I first heard about it a few months ago. It turned out to be the perfect lazy weekend morning movie.

“Before the Fall” is set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Southern Virginia.  We are first introduced to Ben Bennet, a well to-do attorney. While we are watching Ben get ready for his day, Lee Darcy is finishing up his work shift as a welder. Lee has a drinking problem; we learn from a clerk that every day after work Lee stops in and picks up a six pack of beer.

Why does Lee drink? We get a hint of this when a young, attractive man gives Lee a knowing look and Lee flashes back to being left in a car when he was a boy. His father left him to go into a gas station bathroom with another man. Lee is clearly trying to drink away his desires as he quickly downs a beer in the store parking lot.

Back home Lee is confronted by his neighbor Tina Collins. Lee’s girlfriend Cathy has confided in Tina that Lee is drinking. Lee gets angry and fights with Cathy who falls and gets hurt. Tina calls the cops and Lee is charged.  This charge brings Lee and Ben together.  This meeting in the courtroom is the Assembly Room scene in the novel. Ben says something about Lee without knowing that Lee was standing right there.

The two meet again when Ben throws a party for Chuck Bingley. Bingley and Lee are friends, they deliver meals to the homebound together. Bingley brings Lee to the party, Lee is clearly uncomfortable, especially after a run in with Ben’s friends Lyle and Kittner.

Ben’s best friend is Jane Gardiner. Jane is instantly taken with Bingley and him with her.  He invites them to go hiking thinking Jane and Ben a couple.  They agree and meet to go hiking with Bingley, Lee, and Cathy. During the hike, Cathy gets Ben to admit he’s gay and then proceeds to question his lifestyle since he’s not flamboyant. No sooner does Ben tell her that not all gay men are flamboyant than Lyle and Kittner show up, both of whom are colorful.

You might be wondering where George Wickham is in all of this.  He was Lee’s lawyer and is pursuing Ben. Ben, of course, is taken with Wickham. As the viewer we know that he’s shady and when Ben finally learns the truth about Wickham he’s heartbroken.

While Ben is being pursued by Wickham. Jane and Bingley are falling in love. There is a trip to his cabin, where there is no running water. An awkward run in between Ben and Lee, and another homophobic Q&A with Cathy.  After this disastrous trip, Ben convinces Jane that while Bingley is a good guy, he’s beneath her and she could never be happy with him.

At the same time Ben is building a friendship with Lee. He’s discovering more about him and slowly falling in love. At the cabin he found Lee’s journal and he starts to look into Lee’s case. He questions Tina, who admits she may have lied and she tried to tell Wickham but he dismissed her.

Ok this is running a bit long so to wrap this up, Lee overhears Ben admit to splitting up Jane and Bingley. Lee lays into Ben and insults him. Ben finds a way to clear Lee’s name in the assault case and also get Wickham into trouble. Jane and Bingley get back together. Cath confronts Ben about trying to make Lee gay. Lee tells Ben he’s leaving the state. Lee and Ben meet up on a hiking path and after some really quick deep thinking Lee finally admits he loves Ben.

I liked many aspects of this movie. I enjoyed the modern take on the story and the characters. I liked that both Lee and Ben were a combination of Darcy and Elizabeth. Neither one was too like their namesake and split the roles for a nice twist.  I also enjoyed the fact that Jane and Bingley were still Jane and Bingley, the adorably cute couple that appear in so many of the movie adaptations. This is also true for Lyle and Kittner, the perfect male Lydia and Kitty. I didn’t care for Cathy, the role or the actress. She was the only part that didn’t work for me. I liked the idea of Cathy but how she fit into the story just didn’t work for me overall.

This wasn’t just a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it was a movie focused on some of the social issues we are seeing in our daily lives like the prejudice of sexual orientation. We see Lee struggling with being a gay man, it’s not something he feels comfortable admitting which is why he drinks. He’s torn between being what society expects of him and what he wants for himself. Cathy is the role of society and he’s is sort of shoved down our throats. I don’t think anyone who chooses to watch this movie really needs that, the more subtle aspects would have been enough. Like the novel, also deals with issues of class and how we view those of a higher or lower social class.  I would have liked to have seen a more diverse cast, but you can’t have everything you want in some movies.

I’m suggesting this movie to anyone who likes Jane Austen adaptation movies, Lifetime movies, and indie films. I think it’s worth the watch, especially on a lazy weekend morning.

Watch the trailer:

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