“If I Stay”
MGM/Summit Entertainment co-production
PG-13 , 1 hr 46 min
Twenty minutes into this week’s YA out-of-body weeper I thought to myself, “If I stay, I’ll lose two hours of my life. If I go, I can get home and sit on my deck in the sun. Hmmmm.” I chose wrong.
The problem with “If I Stay” isn’t so much that it is one two-hour long cliché, but that it is made for, and by, I suppose, people too young to realize that what they are watching has been done and done and done to death. Chloe Grace Moretz, an actress I generally like, is Mia Hall, an awkward teen just trying to fit in. She’s also a prodigy at the cello, a talent that gets her noticed by Adam, a moody young rocker with a past. The two get together and things are good, for a little while. But then, as typically happens, life begins to pull our two lovers apart. His band signs with a record company and he wants to stay in Seattle. She has the opportunity to go to New York to study. Will they break up? Can they stay together? Ouch! Creative angst!
The previous, which makes up the bulk of the movie, is not given to us in a linear format, but rather in flashback due to the movie’s hook, the one, vaguely creative aspect of the entire production. Early in the film, Mia, her little brother, and their reformed rock n’ roller parents are in a terrible car wreck, leaving Mia comatose and the rest in dire straits. Mia then has an out-of-body experience, giving her spirit leave to wander the hospital corridors and reminisce on what her life has been up to this point. This has some interesting implications, the kind explored in everything from “A Christmas Carol” to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but “If I Stay” never does anything with the device. Mia literally just wanders around eavesdropping on her family, remembering things, and eventually deciding whether or not to “stay.” She doesn’t interact with the memories or imagine future scenarios. She doesn’t seem to draw anything from the memories that will impact her decision on whether to stay or not – her main influences seem to be based on how bad things can get in the hospital and whether she gets into Julliard or not. The flashbacks become basically pointless, so they should at least be entertaining, but instead are just cliché and mopey and feel like they add at least three hours to the film.
“If I Stay” at least offers some decent acting. I liked the performances of both Mia’s mother and the father, Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard respectively, although as characters they are both written a little broadly. Stacy Keach makes an appearance as Mia’s grandfather, and though I thought he seemed a little lost for a while, he does have a fairly effective and moving scene at Mia’s bedside. Moretz, who played the scene-stealing Hit Girl in the “Kick-Ass” movies, a young vampire in “Let Me In,” and most recently starred in the remake of “Carrie,” is an actress I have been pretty impressed with in the past. This is, to put it mildly, not her best work. Though the acting in the film is passable, the script is not. Much of the dialogue is leaden, and the story, as I may have mentioned, is a worn-out retread of a dozen better films.
I wanted to like the movie, honestly I did. I was rooting for it, but in the end the most entertaining moment in the entire production was a tiny thing that happened in the first ten minutes. The scene on screen was a noisy hallway filled with teenagers making their way from class to lockers and back again. Behind me, the auditorium doors burst open and four high school girls bustled in laughing and talking, giggling as they shushed each other trying to find seats together. “Oh my gawd! It’s started!” It was a surreal moment, almost as though we were going to have theater in the round. I half expected the girls to walk down the aisle and up onto the screen. It was cool and had nothing to do with the actual movie, and was over as soon as it began, and I stayed for the next two hours waiting for something to match it. I should have just walked into the light and been done with it.
“If I Stay” is rated PG-13 for lots of angst, some language, and mild sexual situations.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.