THE BOTTOM LINE
“If I Stay” isn’t going to win an Oscar, but it will probably rake in a decent amount at the box office thanks to the droves of teens and tweens who are sure to fill theaters in search of their own Mia-and-Adam love story.
Star Chloë Grace Moretz, 17, delivers a decent performance, but her portrayal of Mia comes off as too grown-up, confident, and experienced for a cello-playing 16-or 17-year-old.
Moretz is most successful during a montage where Mia and Adam (Jamie Blackley) skip rocks,
ride a skateboard (together), and fall in love as the drizzly Portland rain falls around them. There’s not talking in this scene, rather it’s set to music, and maybe that’s why the connection seems so real. The duo isn’t focused on remembering lines, but can really fall into the romance they’re supposed to be realizing.
The music is one of the film’s high points — and it should be, seeing as it focuses on an array of musicians, from Mia and Adam, who plays guitar and fronts the band Willamette Stone, to Kat and Denny, a former punk groupie to her drummer hubby. The soundtrack is stacked with tracks from The Orwells, Beck, Sonic Youth, and the overaching Bach prelude which trails Mia as she travels through bittersweet memories.
The R.J. Cutler-directed film follows in the footsteps of morbid young adult novels-turned-films such as this summer’s “The Fault in Our Stars” (written by John Green) and Nicholas Sparks’ “A Walk to Remember,” so don’t say we didn’t tell you to bring tissues.
THE BREAK DOWN
Rating: 2 stars
Type: Tearjerker, romance, fantasy
Audience: This one is geared toward the young adult demographic, but don’t be surprised if the theater is smattered with single ladies looking to relive the days of their innocence-filled first loves.
Compare it to candy: If “If I Stay” were a candy, it’d be Sour Patch Watermelons — super sour with sweet undernotes. This movie is full of clichés that are sure to make you purse your lips, but the story line and the love story underneath the below-average script are sure to conjure memories.
Who: Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), Adam (Jamie Blackley), Kat (Mireille Enos), Denny (Joshua Leonard), Kim (Liana Liberato), Gramps (Stacy Keach), Teddy (Jakob Davies).
What: After a horrific car crash shatters Mia’s life, killing her parents, injuring her brother, and sending her into a coma, the high school senior experiences a purgatory-like out-of-body experience where she must decide between living and dying. She makes sense of her options in the halls of a hospital by connecting her grief-filled present to her past via a series of flashbacks that illustrate her relationships and life goals which heavily factor into her decision.
When: The book, written by Gayle Forman, was published in 2009, but the film looks like it takes place in 2014, thanks to the iPhones and iPod touches used by the characters.
Where: Portland, Ore.
Why: The movie is based on Forman’s novel, which the author said “came out of a personal tragedy,” during an interview with The Source:
“It happened many, many years before, where I had friends who were killed in a car accident, much like that one Mia and her family are in, and what elevated that accident was, they were all killed, but one of the children lived longer and he was medevaced to this trauma center where he passed away. And that piece of it really tormented me for years.”
“If I Stay” hits theaters nationwide Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.