Before You Know It, co-written, directed by, and starring Hannah Pearl Utt, is set in the world of daytime soaps, but ends up being even more melodramatic than the show contained within it. Overly sentimental and painfully unfunny, this film is likely to be forgotten even before people see it.
This movie follows two sisters who discover that their mother, whom they believed to be dead, is alive and the star of a popular soap opera, forcing them to reunite with her in order to save their beloved theatre. This story is pretty ridiculous and ultimately inconsequential by the end of the film, as the scripts goes off on so many (equally useless) tangents and subplots that it is easy to lose track of where the movie even started.
The most excruciating parts of this film are its dreadful attempts at humor. Although there are some members of the cast with legitimate charm, such as Alec Baldwin and Mandy Patinkin, they get so little screen time that they are rendered inept. Instead, much of the movie is on the shoulders of Utt (who is fine, but forgettable) and Jen Tullock (who is terribly annoying).
At least Utt and Tullock have chemistry together, and that is the only thing that makes the film remotely watchable. The dynamic between the two actresses, particularly in the beginning, when they share the screen with Patinkin, lends itself to a believable and compelling sibling relationship. If only this aspect of the movie were explored with more depth instead of giving the audience a not-so-deep-dive into the world of soap operas.
One of the reasons why this film is so disappointing is that the foundations in character development are there — they just aren’t used in a way that is remotely thoughtful. Somehow, Utt and Tullock are able to build characters that are legitimately likable no matter how superficial and/or annoying they may be. Yet, when placed in this story that is over-the-top, that connection is lost.
Perhaps the cause of this deficiency is that the movie lacks the sense of timing it needed to be successful. In the beginning of the film, it seems like the movie is going to be about grief, but then the story takes a much more lighthearted turn. There was a lot of potential for this film to be enjoyable and have something interesting to say, but those ideas simply aren’t explored.
On a technical level, the movie feels thoroughly generic. If you have seen any slightly quirky family drama before, this film copies that same style, but loses all of the magic. That isn’t to say that the movie is completely devoid of merit — there are some pretty shots of NYC — but there are plenty more movies that feature the same thing with a more interesting story.
Before You Know It features a talented supporting ensemble, but unfortunately, that is wasted on a script that is entirely unimpressive. There really is very little to recommend about this film, other than Mandy Patinkin, who always brightens up anything in which he has a part.
Before You Know It opens in theaters on August 30.