If I Stay

Director: R.J. Cutler

Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Stacy Keach, Jamie Blackley, Liana Liberato, Gabrielle Rose

Rated: PG-13 (thematic elements and some sexual material)

Life changes in an instant for young Mia Hall after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined. The choice is hers if she can go on.

 

If I Stay

By Cole Schneider

“If I Stay” is a romantic-melodrama, presumably taking its title from Act 3, Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet, which fits thematically with what the film is setup to say. Like Romeo (“I must be gone and live, or stay and die.”), Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) is placed in a situation where she must unearth her reason for living; and like Romeo, her reasons for living are tied to those she loves. At least this is the setup the film offers when Mia’s family is in a car wreck and she remains as an out-of-body consciousness witnessing her loved ones mostly through flashbacks.

However, where Shakespeare finds the existential struggle in the romance of two teens, “If I Stay” trades the romance for a series of scenes where Mia and her boyfriend make-out, then cry, then make-out, then cry. Again and again. It’s soap opera melodrama combined with teen angst and it’s pitiful.

IMDB’s description of the film reads: “During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined.” She must decide whether to wake up and live or… what? Or not to? That’s never presented as an option. This is the central problem with the film. There is no decision. There is no existential struggle. It’s not that it’s poorly handled, it’s that it doesn’t exist! Death is a maguffin. Her decision is simply whether to go to college with her boyfriend on the West Coast or in New York. All that remains in the meantime is the propagation of emotional manipulation.

Rating: .5 out of 5 stars

 

If I Stay

By Matt Greene

Music is a recurring literal and allegorical motif in If I Stay. In keeping with this tired trend, if If I Stay was a song, it would be a weapy Avril Lavigne ballad: fake, melodramatic, and boring. It’s blandness to the nth degree, with little to no style OR substance to pull it out of its own self-absorbed pretension. Who will this movie appeal to? It’s too slow for tweens, too tepid for adults.  Unless you’re looking for something stupid, vapid, depressing, clichéd, annoying, and laughless, don’t bother.

The movie’s essentially a fantasy for shy teenage girls: the dreamy, popular older band-boy inexplicably notices you, pursues you, and falls in love with you. She’s a shy but stuck-up classical cellist jerk. Her love interest is a selfishly immature hipster jerk. They are a match made in conceited jerk heaven! But when a tragic accident puts you on the brink of death, your conscience must decide: do I keep living, or do I avoid pain by dying? This pretense could make for some interesting storytelling, with a ghost having to watch her life play out without affecting it…but nope.

Moretz, who I normally like, is given nothing to work with and turns in her worst performance to date. A bevy of Portlandia-style caricatures parade around screen shooting for authenticity and consistently missing. I couldn’t contain my eye-rolling at the onslaught of cynical clichés and bad quips about the “power” of music. Some decent scenes of actual musicianship, a couple of good performances (Grandpa), and a modicum of sweetness are completely overwhelmed by the inauthentic and never-ending dullness.

Rating: .5 out of 5 stars

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