film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, September 7, 2014

If I Stay 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

If I StayDirector: R. J. Cutler
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Jamie Blackley

Hey, everybody cries at the movies. Heck, to this day I even sob when I view the ending of Hoosiers (and I'm 40 years old, crazy right?). So at a screening for what was supposed to be a three handkerchief flick, I checked around the room to see if any audience member had their tear ducts flowing. Not one, nothing but dry eyes. Should I tell everyone to revisit Ghost again (a film that the one I'm about to review sort of resembles)? I guess so. But most people have probably already seen it. Well, to those who haven't viewed that spooky gem from 1990 yet, you'll probably get word of mouth from other moviegoers and figure it out. You don't need my help.

Anyway, here are the words that I would use to describe the teen tearjerker If I Stay (which takes place in Oregon): manipulative, overlong, and a tad sappy. While there are a few heartfelt moments, this vehicle only comes to life towards the last half hour. Within this half hour, it concentrates solely on hospital scenes showing our protagonist (Chloe Grace Moretz is miscast but she stills radiates a little screen presence as Mia Hall) laying comatose in a trauma ward bed. Prior to that, If I Stay consists of an uneven dispersal involving present day scenes possessing virtually no dramatic tension and tireless, young love flashbacks that resemble an episode of The O.C. as opposed to an actual feature length film.

Like the aforementioned Ghost, If I Stay follows the story arc of the 2004 firefighter drama Ladder 49. "49" is a flick in which the hero or main character, is shown dying at the beginning and the remainder of the proceedings involve flashbacks of their life leading up to that point. If I Stay also feels a lot like the 2005 dramedy Just Like Heaven in which the lead role (Reese Witherspoon as Dr. Elizabeth Masterson) is on the verge of dying, leaves her body, and is able to watch her unconscious self being slowly brought back to life. I have to say that Ladder 49 and Just Like Heaven are unfortunately, really lousy movies. Is If I Stay a better film than the utterly disposable ones just mentioned? Yes, but only slightly better and I'm being generous, trust me.

Based on a novel (of the same name) written by Gayle Forman, If I Stay begins with images of an Oregon forest and treetops of heavy snow. The movie chronicles the character of Mia Hall (Moretz). She grew up the child of hippy rock band parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard as Denny and Kat Hall). Instead of following in their rock n' roller footsteps, Mia decides instead to concentrate on playing beautiful classical music via her cello. As the proceedings move along, Mia falls in love with a fellow boy musician at her high school (Adam Wilde played by Jamie Blackley who kind of looks like a young Tom Hanks), tries to get into The Juilliard School harnessing her music, and eventually succumbs to a car accident where her, her brother, and her parents become severely injured.

In the first paragraph of the review, I talked about the fact that If I Stay contains flashbacks (and there are a bunch of them). In fact, the whole film is concentrated almost solely on flashbacks. We see Mia's early childhood, her relationship with her family, her love for the cello at a young age, and yes, the soggy melodrama between her and her rocker boyfriend. Every once in a while, If I Stay when it feels like it, decides to intercut these flashbacks with present day scenes in the hospital where Mia is on the verge of death (from her car accident). Here in lies the problem: these scenes are short, underwritten, underplayed, and lack serious dramatic heft. In fact, the car crash sequence that should be designed to illicit a heavy response from your typical moviegoer, has almost no buildup and it happens in the blink of an eye. Honestly, it was so quick it's as if it never happened. Finally, there's Moretz in the title role. She narrates most of the running time and it kills any dramatic momentum that "Stay" could have contained. Ultimately, it's too perky. And I guess she's seventeen in real life but honestly, she looks about 13 or 14 here. She doesn't appear fully developed enough to resemble a high school student and she actually has a PG-13 style love scene. Pretty darn creepy if you ask me.

In conclusion, If I Stay is a mixed bag for sure. And although I believe that Chloe Grace Moretz can indeed act, she looks and comes off as a little too young to carry a romantic drama. Along with a tiring, recycled screenplay (which includes lots of make-up break-up stuff that is better suited for the teenage crowd than a serious adult audience member) and a story that although decently told, seems to drag on and on, If I Stay ends on a down note if you think about it (I won't reveal whether the Mia character lives or dies but (spoiler alert) her family doesn't make it in the car crash and if she had survived, would her life by any less scarred?). Bottom line: if you are not patient with this movie, you as the audience member, might say to yourself, "should I go?"

Of note: if you choose to take in a viewing of If I Stay, look for the stars of the film hovering around a bonfire and singing an acoustic guitar/cello version of "Today" by The Smashing Pumpkins. Gosh, I almost forgot how much I missed that song.

Written by Jesse Burleson

No comments:

Post a Comment