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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Every Day

Every Day has a fantastic premise for a romantic drama, and then squanders it on a plot where not a whole lot happens, and on people who are not that interesting.  Oh, the teens at the center of the romance are likable enough, and they are played by good actors.  In fact, one of the lovers is played by several good actors, both men and women. (You'll understand in a minute.) But they've been written in a way so that they are not that interesting, and only the charm and screen presence of the young actors carries us through.

I have not read the novel by David Levithan that inspired the screenplay by Jesse Andrews, so I don't know if the book has the same problems.  All I know is that I was left with a constant sense that given its premise, this movie should be so much more involving than it is.  Its premise is intriguing.  A high school girl named Rhiannon (Angourie Rice) falls in love with someone who wakes up in the body of a different person every day.  This person (or perhaps a spirit) goes only by the name of "A", and is constantly switching bodies when the clock strikes midnight.  It can be a man or a woman, and even A is not sure of what its true sex is, as this unexplained phenomenon has been happening its entire life.  The bodies that A enters for a 24 hour period are always around the same age as it, and always in the same area.  A is careful not to interfere too much with the lives of the people it inhabits for one day.  When A leaves the body and goes to another one, the person he was previously inhabiting has no memories of the previous day when A was in control.

Right off the bat, your mind is probably racing with possibilities of where a story like this could go.  We never fully know who or what A truly is, or what has caused this to happen.  It's probably best this way, and A most likely does not understand.  But still, think of what a writer could do with a story where one of its central characters inhabits a different body every day.  What would happen if A woke up one day to find himself in the body of someone who had no legs?  Would he know how to get around for the 24 hours he found himself trapped in that particular body?  Or what if he wound up in the body of someone who was comatose?  The movie does actually hint at these intriguing possibilities, such as when he wakes up once in the body of a blind teen, and later we learn that he was once in the body of someone who was undergoing surgery.  But the movie treats this as throwaway details, and does not truly explore what it would be like for someone to experience such a situation.  The movie also never addresses what happens to the person's actual personality or soul during the one day A is inhabiting them.  If A has control of the body, does he push the actual person out somehow?  After all, when A is inhabiting them, they take on his personality and mannerisms.  This opens up a whole other issue that the movie somehow dodges.

Rhiannon first encounters A when it happens to inhabit the body of her usually shallow and jealous lunkhead of a boyfriend, Justin (Justice Smith).  During the one day that A inhabits Justin's body, he is kind and respectful toward Rhiannon, and they spend a great day together.  Rhiannon sees a kinder and gentler side that she has never seen before in Justin, and seems to fall in love with him all over again.  While inhabiting Justin, A falls for Rhiannon as well.  From that point on, whenever he enters a new body, he tracks down Rhiannon and tries to get close to her again.  It's the first time he's felt a human connection to anyone.  Of course, first A has to convince Rhiannon about what is happening.  You would think this would be difficult, but she seems to go along with the idea about the whole body swapping business after about five minutes of denial.  Yes, A knows intimate details about her and what they talked about when they spent the day together when he was Justin.  But, you still think Rhiannon would be just a little more doubtful.

During the course of the film, A takes the form of a heavyset yet gentle kid (Jacob Batalon from Spider-Man: Homecoming), a transgender teen named Vic (Ian Alexander), a black kid who is homeschooled and lives with a domineering and controlling mother (Sean Jones), and at one point, even wakes up in the body of a troubled teen who has cuts on her arms from failed suicide attempts.  When A is in this girl's body, it wants to figure out how to stay in the body longer than 24 hours so that it can help this girl get the attention and care that she needs.  Can A stay in a body longer than 24 hours, and is it right to interfere with a person's life, even if it is to save their life?  Again, intriguing possibilities, and again the screenplay chooses to sidestep just about every one for the easiest and most trite answer possible.  It all leads up to a forced climax and conclusion that manages to be both melodramatic and head-scratching at the same time.

Every Day, while never an unwatchable movie, simply infuriated me with how it seemed determined to ignore every possibility its premise presents itself.  There is so much that could have been done with its idea, and with the character of A.  Heck, multiple movies could probably be made about this idea.  I don't even object to the movie being a teen romance, as you could still fit these intriguing ideas into the formula.  Not only that, but Angourie Rice is fantastic as Rhiannon, and carries a screen presence that immediately grabs your attention.  By all accounts, this should have been a smashing success.  I was fascinated early on as the story began to open up numerous possibilities, only to have it focus on the most banal and trivial teen romance imaginable.  I wanted to feel things while I was watching this, but the emotion that entered my mind the most was disappointment.

Maybe some people will be able to lose themselves in the romantic fantasy that this movie creates.  More power to them.  I wish I could join them.  But all I could think about is that I wanted a different writer to have another crack at this script, and truly exploit its potential.  Again, for all I know, the movie is just being faithful to the book.  If that's the case, the screenwriter should have gone in a different direction.

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