In her directorial debut “Just Before I Go” Courteney Cox confronts her wealth of experience in comedy with the darker subject-matter of suicide with mitigated results.
Written by sitcom heavy David Flebotte (“Desperate Housewives,” “Will and Grace”) “Just Before I Go” is an unconvincing attempt to mollify the seriousness of suicide with humor. But directing a film that wants to make light of a dark subject is no easy task: few directors have managed to do so, and Cox just isn’t one of them.
When a script, like this one, is poorly written, it is almost impossible for a director to make a compelling film out of its provided material.
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The outcome of “Just Before I Go” was predictable from the onset, its premise simple enough to understand and anticipate. In the opening scene Ted Morgan (Seann William Scott) is underwater and motionless. In a voice-over he explains that he has decided to commit suicide. The reason, a series of negative childhood experiences.
Before offing himself Ted wants to confront the people he deems responsible for those bad moments such as a high-school bully and his seventh-grade teacher.
When it becomes obvious that Ted is a character who will grow and end his journey with a deeper understanding of humanity ten minutes into the film, there’s suddendly very little at stake. There isn’t much left to imagine, or worse, question about the characters’ intent.
Courteney Cox admittedly does a solid job at direction, coaxing some strong performances out of her actors. As a police officer, husband to a “sleep-masturbator” and father to a closeted homosexual son Zeke, Lucky (Garret Dillahunt) shows big, bouncy wit and infectious comedic timing. As Romeo, Zeke’s incognito boyfriend, Evan Ross delivers a sincere and generous performance.
Seann William Scott’s turn as Ted, on the other hand, is haphazard. The actor, previously known for his many raunchy comedic roles, delivers a few humorous lines, such as when he compares his childhood bully’s loud, thudding walk to a dinosaur in Jurassic Park. But when it comes to servicing the film’s dramatic core, the Ted character goes flat because it lacks specificity, some memorable idiosyncrasy.
Somehow it’s hard to feel empathy or understanding for a man whose reasons for contemplating suicide, the vector of the movie’s plot, are not urgent or horrid enough to enthrall our attention.
“Just Before I go” premiered at this year’s Tribeca Festival.