If I Stay – 2 out of 5
Out of body experiences and ghosts are not uncommon themes in the world of fiction. Sometimes the ghosts do cool things like help their lover make pottery or the ghost in question is a formerly beloved stand-up comedian whose history as a ghostly father has forever been tainted by the suddenly realization that he’s been a rapist all this time. Usually in the more benevolent stories that involve ghosts, it’s love that proves to be their unfinished business and the reason they stick around. That’s pretty much the entire game being played here in If I Stay.
Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) has an absolutely perfect life. She clearly won the lottery with the coolest parents (played by Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) in all of existence—they were former rock stars and it’s shown that they are the coolest people in the neighborhood, they show nothing but support to their kids and they are so hip and down with today’s youth that they are super open to their daughter dating! And speaking of dating, Mia is involved with Adam (Jamie Blackley), a slightly older boy who is in a rock band that is on the verge of blowing up. Finally, Mia herself is involved with music and totes rocks on the cello so hard that it looks like she might get into Julliard. Yep, everything is perfect for old Mia until a car accident leaves her on death’s bed (and he's not keen on sharing his sleeping quarters). Now Mia is a g-g-g-g-ghost and she has to decide if she’ll move on to the other side or…if she’ll stay. (Ooooh, that’s how they got the title!)
|Pictured: The impossible family.|
I can’t say I had high expectations going into the film. However, I won’t deny that there’s a part of me that had expectations that this might surprise me and I might find this one to be really dramatic, emotional and maybe even a tad on the tear-jerky side. Heck, I went into The Fault in Our Stars thinking I was going to find a cheesy tween feature but was shocked how moved I was by it all. However, as you can clearly see from the score, I didn’t find that with If I Stay.
|Stacy Keach is in the movie, though. So, that's a plus.|
As far as the performances go, this film isn’t too shabby. Moretz is her usual great self and the rest of the cast are all doing a fantastic job as well. If there’s a downside to any of the cast it would have to be with Jamie Blackley as the boyfriend. He’s never terrible in his performance as Adam but he was incredibly flat, bland and felt completely devoid of emotion and was terribly wooden. That sounds harsh and like he was horrendous but, really, he was just serviceable; however, not memorable.
The issue I had with If I Stay is how unrealistic the whole drama of the film feels. First off, the dialogue is incredibly unrealistic. The teens talk about love and relationships in a super over-the-top way. Adults don’t even talk about matters of the heart this way and it just felt like a writer’s idealistic way of how they want the flowery language of love to be talked about. And secondly, the entire drama of the film was pretty much impossible for me to get into.
|Come one! Dates when I was in high school was getting pizza.|
Eh, who am I kidding? I never got dates in high school.
Thanks for opening up old wounds, movie!
There’s not a single thing about Mia’s life that is, in any way, considered bad. Even the story’s attempt to bring drama to her relationship with Adam is done only through the reality that their combined futures are just too good. Mia’s life is, for all intents and purposes, perfect. She has absolutely no drama with her family, her future appears to have no hiccups as her music is taking her to the best school in the country and her boyfriend in on the verge of hitting it big with his band. The only bad thing is the car accident (and yes, that is terrible) but to have the girl ghost around questioning if she should stay or not is pretty damn silly and very hard to sympathize with.
I’m not saying I went into If I Stay thinking I would find myself saying, “That Mia girl is totally me, you guys” but it would have been nice to actually sympathize with her. Sure, the film does offer up a heartbreaking twist to the accident scenario but it comes long after she first questions if she should stay (and this film loves to use that word “stay.” Seriously, you can make it a drinking game and you'd get pretty sauced.). For a majority of the movie, I found myself saying that her life was absolutely perfect so where is there even a question over whether or not she should make the leap back into her body. It made the entire experience really hard to both sit through and even harder to sympathize with.
|"If you stay, you'll stay on a staying course to the best life and you can stay staying|
in that life."
If I Stay could have been a good movie for me. Sure, it would have been one of those films that are more about manipulating the viewer than triggering a real emotional response but there’s tons of easy notes the story could have hit to make the story really hit home—even to the point it could make a 30 plus year old man who spends more money on comics every week than he does on groceries understand what a teenager girl who rocks the cello is going through. Instead, the film went this idyllic dream of a writer’s perfect life and it made for a story that was too silly to take seriously and that in turn made it super hard for me to get into. (And maybe the novel this is based on has the same issue but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read it and really don’t plan on after watching this.)