“Every Day” review: Charming, compelling teen movie
The character is named A, has no gender or even a fixed human body and is played by — if my count is correct — more than a dozen actors. A is the highly unusual romantic lead in “Every Day,” director Michael Sucsy’s adaptation of David Levithan’s young adult novel.
It’s a movie that pushes the boundaries of believability and runs the risk of sounding like a PSA for alternative sexualities. But thanks to its charming cast and nonpreachy tone, “Every Day” ends up feeling like something special. It’s a compelling, possibly groundbreaking movie about young love in a new era of options and definitions.
Our heroine is actually Rhiannon. A friendly and unassuming high schooler played by a peppy but never precious Angourie Rice (a 17-year-old Australian who appeared briefly in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”). When her normally neglectful boyfriend. Justin (Justice Smith), suddenly whisks her away for a romantic day of hooky at the beach, Rhiannon’s heart soars.
It turns out, though, Justin was only temporarily occupied by the spirit of A. Who wakes up in the body of someone new every day. A is in love with this girl but, as you might imagine, their relationship will take some work.
As a story, “Every Day” is more believable than you might think, though as a movie it has its flaws.
The many actors who briefly embody A can be tough for us to attach to. They range from quite good (notably Owen Teague and Jacob Batlan, also from “Spider-Man”) to fairly stiff. Still, the cast is so variegated — black, white, blind, nerdy, sexually ambiguous. That we tend to dwell on Rhiannon’s bemused reactions rather than the occasional stilted performance.
As for Jesse Andrews’ screenplay, it sometimes feels over-earnest (How about a little comedy? The possibilities are endless.) but “Every Day” is, after all, trying to say something serious about love. And in its modest, teen-modulated way, it says it.
Some viewers might note that, despite its expansive notion of sexuality. “Every Day” features only one same-gender kiss and eventually settles on a very conventional-looking picture of happiness. All true. But I’d say this daring little movie has earned the right to make its choice.
Playing like a tortured teen twist on A Dog’s Purpose, Michael Sucsy’s Every Day is a romantic fantasy about a 16-year-old girl in love with a similarly smitten entity. Who wakes up in a different adolescent body every morning.
At its core is a well-intentioned message about inclusivity and valuing inner beauty. But the film, adapted from the 2012 YA best-seller by David Levithan (albeit with a problematic perspective shift), remains stuck in a stubborn rut somewhere between confusing and snooze-inducing.
This first release by the newly resurrected Orion Pictures might play well with a female audience too young for Fifty Shades Freed. But most others will likely shut their eyes tightly and wish they woke up in a different theater.
Where the Levithan novel took place through the eyes of A, an undefined, restless spirit who would occupy the bodies of unsuspecting people its own age for roughly 24 hours a pop. The screen version has shifted the focus to that of Rhiannon (Angourie Rice), a self-possessed high school student with a boyfriend. Nathan (Justice Smith), who takes her for granted.
That is, until the day A happens to inhabit Nathan’s body, turning him into the sort of attentive beau of her dreams. She enjoys strolls on the beach and going on idyllic drives while jointly singing along to “This Is the Day”. That by 1980s post-punk outfit The The. Honest.
Unfortunately, the day after, Nathan is back to his old, indifferent self, as A moves onto, or rather into, another host in Rhiannon’s immediate orbit.
By the end of the week, Rhiannon has gone from a disbeliever to actively seeking out A’s latest teenage guise — one that isn’t governed by gender or skin color and can take the form of all shapes and sizes. Although Rhiannon seems to have a clear preference for lean, sensitive guys with kissable lips.
Director Sucsy, whose credits include HBO’s Grey Gardens and Sony’s The Vow, and screenwriter Jesse Andrews. Who previously penned the film adaptation of his novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, obviously had audience identification in mind when opting to switch out their central protagonist. But in taking the POV away from the disembodied A, the film not only dilutes Levithan’s resonant themes of identity and categorization.
But also places Rhiannon in the potentially less sympathetic position of physically connecting with no less than 16 iterations of A throughout the course of the filmed-in-Toronto production.
At the rate she’s going, she could hit the 100 hook-up mark by the start of second semester.
If there was some sort of satirical element in play, the conceit might have been more easily digested. But there’s no such luck in light of all the achingly banal dialogue and listless, repetitive pacing.
Australian actress Rice and her co-stars do the best they can under the excruciatingly earnest circumstances. Which is at least more than a thoroughly squandered Maria Bello has been given to do as Rhiannon’s constantly stressed-out mom. Who looks like she could benefit from finding a shape-shifting spirit of her own.
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content, language, teen drinking, and suggestive material)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed By: Michael Sucsy
Stars: Angourie Rice, Justice Smith, Debby Ryan
Written By: Jesse Andrews
In Theaters: Feb 23, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 5, 2018
Box Office: $5,260,834
Runtime: 95 minutes
Studio: Orion Pictures
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR EVERY DAY
Oh yes, this is an eat-your-veg personal development class, delivered with sledgehammer subtlety.
You have to just go with it, and not break the butterfly of its idea on the wheel of derision.
“Every Day” is, after all, trying to say something serious about love. And in its modest, teen-modulated way, it says it.
The story probably can’t help posing more questions than it could ever reasonably answer, and the great cast goes a long way toward smoothing out the creases.