By Britton Perelman, Staff Writer
Mia Hall’s biggest concern was a letter from Juilliard, until a snow day that would change her life forever.
After a tragic car accident leaves Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz) in a coma, she’s left to decide her own fate during an out of body experience in the hospital. Told through flashbacks and scenes from the hospital hallways where Mia is confined, “If I Stay” is the latest young adult romance novel turned major movie.
I was intrigued by the core idea behind the story, that Mia has to choose whether or not she wants to live, but was disappointed, among other things, by the forced dialogue and underdeveloped characters. Chick flicks appeal to me as much as any other person, but the dialogue in “If I Stay” was just too scripted. The romantic lines between Mia and her boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley) were exactly as expected, to the extent that I probably could have supplied the lines before they were spoken on screen. Worse yet, there wasn’t a single well-developed character in the movie. Mia’s character was inconsistent and all over the board emotionally; Adam wasn’t given nearly enough backstory. Mia’s family was quirky and likable, but they just weren’t shown with enough depth to allow me to care when anything happened to them.
Though the story was told in an interesting, alternating way, the whole film just wasn’t long enough. Scenes were constantly cut short, ending right after someone finished speaking or an action was completed, never lingering at all. The transitions back and forth were often jarring and off-putting, making me wonder why the filmmakers couldn’t have just held some of those shots a few seconds longer. It definitely wouldn’t have hurt the slim 1 hour and 45 minute
For all the press I’ve heard about Moretz’s performance, I wasn’t all that impressed with her melodramatic acting. But, considering the script full of voice-overs and sappy drama, maybe it wasn’t entirely her fault. Some movies can get away with a lot of voice-over narrative – “Fight Club” and anything by Christopher Nolan, for instance – but this bordered on preachy. I didn’t understand why I was being told things about the story that I could have easily deduced from the movie itself if only the filmmakers had let me.
All that being said, it wasn’t completely horrible; in fact, there were certain parts I really loved. Hand-held camera footage of Mia and Adam spending time together was a great way to show the progression of their relationship. Some of Mia’s flashbacks had a home-movie feel to them, “vintage-y” and only lasting mere seconds, which was a really beautiful way to show her family and their life. The scene of a Labor Day party turned musical bonfire where, according to Mia, she finally found her place, was easily the best in the entire film.
And, though Mia and Adam’s characters could have used more development, there were very real aspects to their relationship. They argued and fought over the typical worries of two college-age teens suddenly headed in different directions, but too in love to let go of one another. Adam struggles to be excited about Mia’s audition for Julliard, a dream that might take her thousands of miles away, just as Mia has to convince herself to be happy about his band’s success, which constantly throws a wedge between them. Neither is able to be completely supportive of the other because they simply haven’t gotten past the self-centered stage that’s part of growing up. In the words of Mia’s mom, “It’s very inconvenient to fall in love at your age, especially if it’s the real thing.”
“If I Stay” is a love story that rivals Hallmark’s best. Take it for what it is. Mia’s mom sums it up best – “Life is this big, fat, gigantic, stinking mess. That’s the beauty of it too.” I think that despite all the qualms I have with it, “If I Stay” comes very close to proving her right.