MOVIES THAT DON’T SUCK: ‘Before I Disappear’ doesn’t deserve its rotten reviews

After watching a movie, I almost always check Rotten Tomatoes to see where I stand.

Around 80 percent of the time, I agree with the aggregated consensus.

Rotten movies – well, they’re usually “rotten,” and the “fresh” ones are almost always pretty good.

So when I found out that “Before I Disappear” held a 33 percent on the Tomatometer, I was left scratching my head.

Director Shawn Christensen, who is relatively unknown, even after winning an Academy Award for his short film “Curfew,” does a good job.

“Before I Disappear,” which is based on Christensen’s  short, starts out bleak.

The audience sees pallid-skinned Richie (Shawn Christensen), as he slits his wrist in his rather sad-looking bathtub.

But the greatest strength of “Before I Disappear” is that it doesn’t lose itself in crushing despair like similar dramas.

Weird, impromptu flashdances and suicidal overdoses on menopause medication provide much needed comic relief.

And as Richie bleeds out in his small New York apartment, he’s interrupted by a phone call, beginning the trend of dark humor.

Luckily, it’s his high-strung sister Maggie (Emmy Rossum), who skips niceties and goes straight to asking him to babysit.

The dark absurdity of the scene is funny, and you almost feel sorry for Richie.

I mean, the guy can’t even die in peace.

And the dark humor continues when Richie is caught fumbling about, as he wraps his wrist in packing tape.

Yes, weirdly enough, Richie puts slitting his wrists on hold so that he can babysit his 11-year-old niece, Sophia (Fatima Ptacek). This choice not only delays his suicide but also sets the stage for the film’s plot.

Richie, while dealing with his dangerous drug-dealing acquaintances, has to look after a precocious, also high-strung kid.

More problems arise when one of Richie’s dangerous friends (Paul Wesley) asks him for information about his missing girlfriend.

Richie, who works in a bar, found the girl dead. But he can’t let his friend know, or else Richie’s boss (Ron Perlman) will kill him.

Naturally, dead people aren’t good for business.

But don’t forget, Richie is stuck babysitting throughout this turmoil.

And as the film progresses and the turmoil mounts, the film’s visuals also become apparent.

Reviewer Robert Abele from the Los Angeles Times says that Christensen’s “stylistic noodlings” take away from the film’s emotional plot.

I disagree.

Yes, Christensen obviously has an affinity for slo-mo, but, luckily, he uses it effectively.

For example, when Richie finds himself at a house party, a liter of blood short, the slo-mo emphasizes his disorientation.

It wasn’t like Nicholas Winding-Refn’s “Only God Forgives,” where the plot is essentially suffocated by the heavy stylization.

The main qualm I have with “Before I Disappear” is with Sophia’s character development.

In the beginning, much like her mother, Sophia is distant and cold towards Richie.

A day or two later, and it’s like the two are buddy-buddy, running off into the sunset.

It’s jarring and unrealistic, but in the film’s short run time of 90 minutes, I can see why Christensen took some shortcuts, sacrificing realism for succinctness.

Still, “Before I Disappear” isn’t “rotten.” It won’t win an Oscar, but if you like dark humor, it’s worth the 90 minutes.


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