Chris Evans’s Before We Go is yet another film about dreamy artist types meeting cute and wandering the iconic cityscapes of New York City throughout a long night, exchanging exhaustingly precious, theoretically searching witticisms. The setup is so familiar that frustration sets in before the title has barely faded from view. Surely there are cities, apart from the usual dozen suspects, that invite this sort of rapture. Surely these characters can possess an occupation other than that of musician, writer, art collector, magazine editor, or something else equally untethered from life as more than 99% of the population presently knows it. If such a level of empathetic exploration proves impossible for most filmmakers, then surely they can at least allow the characters in question to say something—really, anything—that displays a cognitive interest in an element of human life that exists apart from their narcissistic obsession with their own impossible love lives.
Like most bad or mediocre romances, Before We Go has no reason to exist apart from vindicating the fatuous notion that everyone will eventually find someone who “gets” them, and, when they do, said “getting” will be instantaneous and work-free, thusly negating any potential for drama. Nick (Evans) is a lonely-hearted thirtysomething first seen playing his trumpet in—sigh—Grand Central Station, when Brooke (Alice Eve) misses her train to Boston. Nick takes an interest in Brooke’s plight, probably because she’s pretty and has an air of desperation about her (though Evans doesn’t have the sense of humor, either as a director or actor, to acknowledge such a tenet of the roving hetero-male condition), and the two embark on an all-night therapy session. Spoiler alert: It turns out that Nick and Brooke are both bruised from prior loves-gone-bad and are looking for spiritual resuscitation.
An early scene, in which Nick nearly gets beaten up for attempting to steal Brooke’s purse back from a ring of underground crooks, suggests an aura of spontaneity and volatility that quickly evaporates from the film. Otherwise, the narrative is composed of self-help clichés: Nick needs to overcome his fear of auditioning for a jazz musician, Brooke needs to work through her issues regarding her husband’s infidelity, and so on. The script’s so thin and unsurprising that it falls on Evans and Eve to pick up the slack.
The actors give the film exactly what’s on the page, and absolutely nothing more or less. Evans is one of Marvel Studio’s more appealing flim-flam men because of his very lack of stature as an actor; his humility and anonymity contrast appealingly against, say, Robert Downey Jr.’s ever-escalating smugness. On the other hand, someone with Downey’s outsized egocentricity could invest the wispy Before We Go with a neurotic spark of energy that might salvage it. Evans lets you see the work that goes into projecting his charm, in the kind of eager-to-appear-tossed-off performance that engenders a certain amount of protective pity from the audience. Eve is forgettable, reserved, as she often is, and unable to give herself over to Evans. Even on its puny terms, the film has no grandeur or sense of emotional intoxication; it’s scrubbed of any grit or originality, or of anything that might muddy the script’s expendable platitudes.