Before seeing her feature directorial debut Just Before I Go, I never could have imagined just how enraged I could be at Courteney Cox. But this dark comedy is insulting and offensive in just about every way possible. It doesn't understand the line between irreverent humor and offensive jokes. Actually, it doesn't seem to know there is one. As I suffered through the piling on of the tasteless "jokes" and infuriating dialogue that makes up the worst The Tribeca Film Festival had to offer, I resented the 95 minutes of my life I was giving to this garbage, and Cox for thinking it was worth showing the world at all.
Written by Desperate Housewives scribe David Flebotte, Just Before I Go stars Seann William Scott as a suicidal man who returns to his hometown to tie up loose ends before offing himself. His bucket list includes screeching at his abusive old teacher, punching out his childhood bully, and reconnecting with his grade school crush. Along the way, he meets a nosey young woman (Olivia Thirlby) who forces herself into his odyssey under the guise of making a video suicide note for him.
Scott has become a master with irreverent comedy, offering impeccable turns in Role Models and Goon that were both moving and wildly funny. But even he can't save this mean-spirited movie from its rotten core. Actually, not even the collective charm of its charismatic cast that includes Garret Dillahunt, Kate Walsh, Rob Riggle, Mackenzie Marsh, and Missi Pyle can. Just Before I Go is too stuffed with racist, misogynistic, homophobic and otherwise vile content to be salvaged.
Maybe you like Courteney Cox and/or her ensemble enough that you suspect I'm overreacting. For that, I offer a short list of the film's most grim moments, like a teen boy outed as gay because he draws a literal bowl of dicks, or when that same boy jokingly calls his black boyfriend the n-word, when a flustered cop screams "he's gone full-on retard!" It's hard to pick which moment in this clusterfuck is most offensive, but this line of dialogue spoken by the heavyset Marsh is a contender that drew audible gasps of disgust in my screening, "To us big women with five kids, kindness is like a dinner bell. Ring it and we'll answer." I could go on, but I'll spare you.
This kind of shockingly offensive humor could maybe have worked if Cox had created a heightened world, like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where the characters feel unreal enough that we can laugh care-free at what horrendous people they are. But her direction didn't push for these kind of theatrical performances, which suggests she means for us to relate to these people, who are just among the most ghastly representations of mankind ever compiled in one movie. Vicious and unfunny humor aside, Just Before I Go is a visually ugly film that looks like a sloppily shot TV pilot, with slapdash blocking and uninspired framing.
The whole setup actually feels like an outline for an "edgy" sitcom that was retrofitted into a painfully awkward movie. Just Before I Go is overstuffed with characters, from a nonsensically cruel grandfather to a lesbian Elvis-impersonator stepmother to a camel-toe sporting oversexed cop and so on and on and on. Plus, there are subplots of murder, coming out, affairs, and searches for the local answer to the Loch Ness Monster that are never given enough time to properly develop, making for a narrative thread that is unbelievable and incoherent for being far too condensed.
Ultimately, Just Before I Go is a bad movie that feels more like a mangled television series than a film. It's visually uninteresting, emotionally shallow, and -- worst of all -- insulting to its audience on every level. Not only are the attempts at humor more rage-inducing than funny, the film itself restates exposition and repeats the same handful of flashbacks so much that it seems Courteney Cox thinks her audience is made up of idiots with the attention span of goldfish. I completely hated this movie. I hated it so much that I marvel it was accepted to the festival at all. I hate it so much that my opinion of every member of its cast has been hurt. And I actually hated it so much that I felt physically ill by the time its credits finally rolled. I genuinely can't remember that every happening before. So if Just Before I Go has accomplished anything, it's that it is so despicable it's actually nauseating.
Because of the number of noteworthy people in this movie, I'm betting it will get at the least VOD distribution. If and when it does, avoid it at all costs.