“If I Stay” Review

Based off of the Gayle Forman novel of the same name, If I Stay is the Chloë Grace Moretz vehicle about a girl named Mia who falls into a coma after getting into a car crash. While having an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether she wants to live or die. As all of this is going on, we get to watch flashbacks of Mia interacting with her parents (World War Z’s Mireille Enos and The Blair Witch Project‘s Joshua Leonard) and her boyfriend (U Want Me 2 Kill Him?‘s Jamie Blackley). Unsurprisingly, this movie manages to bring crank the manipulation meter all the way to 11. This coupled with the fact that the movie has absolutely no self-awareness whatsoever manages to create a brilliant comedy.

First, the out-of-body experience is remarkable undeveloped. Mia watches as she and her family undergo hospital treatment, and she is treated as an essentially invisible person. All of the laws of physics seem to apply to her, but maybe not because the film doesn’t bother to go into any of that stuff. It would have been interesting to see someone bump into out-of-body Mia or walk through her or something. She can touch things but it’s questionable as to what the effect on the objects is. She grabs her friends’ and relatives’ hands occasionally, and they look like they can see her. And it’s absolutely hysterical. I guess not outlining any rules is the film’s way of trying to get you to not think about it.

If I Stay also seems to have the strange idea that you can only like one genre of music. Mia talks several times throughout the film about how she feels like a disappointment to her parents because they like rock music and she plays the cello. The film also thinks that the cello is the only classical instrument. There are no references to orchestras and with the exception of a briefly shown harp, there are no other classical instruments. Mia even references in the film about how she initially thought that a cello was a “solo instrument”, but discovered that it actually works well with guitars.

The other staple of the flashbacks is Mia’s insufferable relationship with her boyfriend, Adam. Adam is the cool kid but falls in love with Mia because she’s special and unique and plays the cello. Of course, Mia thinks that the fact that she plays the cello and Adam plays the guitar in a mediocre Portland rock band means that he’s too cool for her. Anyway, they start dating and there are tons of clichés while the filmmakers attempt to maintain that the love is unique. Then the faux drama starts. Adam gets upset that Mia is applying to Juilliard and that if she gets in they’ll have to be in a long-distance relationship and he gets really whiny and they fight and kiss and fight and break up. It’s pretty funny.

Although If I Stay is a complete mess, it’s an entertaining mess. My theory is that this is because all of the cast members put their best foot forward and that the director had a vision. Chloë Grace Moretz seemed to give it her all, but I still don’t think she’s very charismatic or talented. The rest of the performances felt forced, but I feel as if that is mostly because the actors weren’t given much to work with. To me, If I Stay is so bad that it’s good. There’s not much about the production that screams incompetence, but everything in the movie is so manipulative and over-the-top that it borders on self-parody. 3/10.

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