Title: Just Before I Go
Director: Courteney Cox
Starring: Seann William Scott, Olivia Thirlby, Garret Dillahunt, Kate Walsh, Rob Riggle, Elisha Cuthbert, Kyle Gallner and Evan Ross
Struggling to find purpose in life can be a stressful journey for many people, especially as they try to relate to those around them and identify the reasons why they haven’t succeeded in achieving their goals. The new comedy-drama ‘Just Before I Go,’ which marks the feature film directorial debut of Courteney Cox and recently screened at the 17th Savannah Film Festival, intriguingly chronicles how a man who feels like he’ll never receive the validation he wants from the people in his life comes to believe that suicide is the only answer that can solve his problems. Actor Seann William Scott captivatingly shed his signature immature on-screen persona to showcase that after having several meaningful interactions with people connected to his past, his character in the movie can finally embrace the fact that he’s needed and wanted by those closest to him. Not only do the characters in the movie learn to overcome their struggles and achieve in what they want in life, but Scott and Cox also prove their natural ability to grow as filmmakers and tackle truly meaningful subjects.
Just Before I Go follows Ted Morgan (Scott), a 41-year-old manager of a Los Angeles pet store whose wife of only a few years, Penny (Elisha Cuthbert), decides to leave him for another man. After she reveals she no longer loves him, as she thinks he has lost all of his motivation and ambitions in life, Ted decides to head back east to his hometown, and spend time with his family. Although he has never been close with his older brother, Lucky (Garret Dillahunt), who is now a police officer, especially after their father died when they were children, Ted decides to temporarily move in with him and his family.
Feeling like he no longer has a purpose in life and the only way to deal with his problems is to commit suicide, Ted decides to first mend his relationships with his family, old school peers and everyone else in his hometown he had problems with as a child. One person he decides to confront is of his former math teachers, who was particularly mean to him after his father died. When he visits her in her nursing home and unleashes his rage on her, he’s interrupted by her granddaughter, Greta (Olivia Thirlby), who decides to film his determination to improve his relationships before he dies.
Ted also confronts several of his old classmates, including Rowley (Rob Riggle), the school bully who cruelly harassed him while they were children. After raising a son with Down’s syndrome, Rowley has recognized the errors he committed against Ted when they were teens, and apologizes to him in an effort to become friends. After being surprised by his former nemesis’ sudden change in personality, Ted is also shocked when he discovers that Vickie (Mackenzie Marsh), the one girl in school who was nice to him, is unhappy in her marriage to her husband (David Arquette), and in her role as a mother to their five children. But Ted still accepts her offer to have sex together, as he’s reminiscent of his childhood interest in her.
But the problems Ted faces at his brother’s house aren’t much better, as Lucky’s wife, Kathleen (Kate Walsh), continuously shows up in his bedroom at night, presumably asleep, to try to engage him in sex. Ted is also approached by his older nephew, Zeke (Kyle Gallner), who reveals to him that he’s secretly gay, and is dating one of his classmates, Romeo (Evan Ross). But Zeke is afraid to admit it to his father and friends, as they wouldn’t be accepting of the fact that he has a boyfriend. After Ted also discovers that his mother (Connie Stevens) is now living with a female Elvis impersonator (Diane Ladd), he’s even more confused about what to do with his life more than ever.
Having starred in a diverse variety of genres on television and in films, including horror, drama and most notably comedy with her popular series Friends and Cougar Town, Cox effortlessly transitioned into making her feature film directorial debut with Just Before I Go. With the aid of screenwriter David Flebotte’s gripping exploration into Ted’s disappointment about how his life turned out after he moved on from his self-perceived bad childhood, and the humor the writer infused into the protagonist’s weary interactions when he returned to his hometown, Cox powerfully chronicled Ted’s self-realization into how he could improve his situation without following through with his plans of suicide. The first-time helmer smartly featured Ted finally making positive changes for the first time in his life that afforded him the opportunity to finally make the connections he so longfully desired, such as with his brother and Greta, after he comprehends that he can’t make a true commitment to Vickie.
While Scott is primarily known for playing juvenile and crude characters who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, most notably Stifler in the American Pie series, Ted is a welcomed departure for the actor that allowed him to finally show his maturing in his career. Just Before I Go is the perfect example of Scott genuinely confronting such serious issues as suicide, acceptance of a person’s sexual orientation and children being bullied and intimidated by their peers and the adults in their lives.
But since the actor has developed a natural ease of infusing comic relief into any situation, he effortlessly incorporated humor into many harrowing circumstances Ted encountered, in an effort to prove that people can move on. From uninhibitedly cursing at his former teacher in her nursing home room, even though she barely recognizes him, to insisting to Greta that he is going to fight Rowley, despite his bigger size, Ted instinctively reacts in ways that make him feel better in the moment. But once he fully takes time to understand other people’s motivations and point-of-views aren’t always what they initially seem to be, he maturely moves past his resentments and realizes his life isn’t as bad as he originally believed. Also embracing the fact that his nephew approached him with his trouble in school and his love life, Scott enthralling showed how Ted finally understood how his actions truly enriched and influenced the people around him.
‘Just Before I Go’ is a truly noteworthy examination into how people’s upbringing, as well as the continued connections with the people around them from their past and present, can truly shape their ideals, emotions and actions. The effortless comedy both Cox and Scott naturally brought to the film helped prove that while humor can help ease people’s continued pain and heartache, everyone must also seriously contend with the reasons why they’re struggling in life. As a first-time feature film director who’s found continued success as an actress throughout her career, Cox naturally understood how to showcase Ted’s self-realization into how he could improve his life. The filmmaker’s ease at helming also helped Scott finally prove his own enthralling range as a performer who can contend with serious issues, while also showcasing his signature comedic side. The characters and filmmakers of the comedy-drama prove that with the right support, anyone can excel at the goals they set for themselves, and the dreams they’ve always desired.
Written by: Karen Benardello