Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Movie Review: "If I Stay" (2014)

Movie: "If I Stay"
Director: R.J. Cutler
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
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Mia Hall (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) is an attractive girl and an avid cello player with cool, hip, supportive parents. Despite all this, she is extremely insecure about herself and her talents. When she draws the interest of a handsome local rockstar and all-around cool kid Adam (Jamie Blackly), she can't believe he's possibly interested in her. Despite her being hesitant, Adam convinces her to go on a date with him. They quickly fall in love as Adam's music career skyrockets into stardom. They hope to get a place together in Oregon after Mia graduates, unless she follows her dream and gets accepted into Julliard. Before she can make a decision one way or the other, her and her family are involved in a severe car accident, putting her in a coma and leaving the majority of her family dead. Now, she must decide whether to stay alive with Adam or follow her family into the light. 

In an effort to capitalize on the current trend of young adult novels being adapted and turned into movies, "If I Stay" also continues a different trend: KILLING OFF TEENAGERS. Why is this such a hot thing right now? Because Hollywood knows teenage girls and their sucker parents will pay to see them.

Most adults will pass by this movie without a second thought since it focuses on a relationship between two young people, and as we all know, young people are whiners and are moody and broody. This movie can be broken up into three basic parts: Adam, the cello, and her family. Before the accident, Mia had the perfect life with a wonderful younger brother and two super cool, understanding, and lenient parents who were uber-hipsters and former musicians. Once the accident happens and with one of those three parts eliminated, out-of-body Mia wonders, what's the point of staying alive when my family is gone? Ultimately, her ghost has to choose between living, which means working it out with Adam and playing the cello (hopefully at Juilliard) but not having her family around, or dying because there's no point in sticking around without her family. There is a real story buried in between the romance and the death, though. Mia is also essentially forced to choose between her true love, Adam, and her dream of playing the cello at the prestigious performing arts school Juilliard. While this is a big deal to her, in reality, it feels like a bunch of trumped-up, first-world, white people problems, and this is coming from someone who felt the same way while reading the book.

Let's make no bones about this: this movie was made because Hollywood and the people who adapt these sappy books into movies are cash cows. The only parts of the movie and the book that are compelling are the parts where Mia is making music, and no, not in that kind of way. You can see it on screen and read it in between the lines, her music is her voice. Everything about her oozes classical music and the cello, but that does not a story make. Teenage girls need intrigue, they need romance, they need ~*drama~*, so there needs to be a romance to keep them interested. Enter Adam, who, of course, is a musician, too, but a more mainstream and successful one. He's the fantasy, the older rocker who loves her unconditionally for who she is and how she plays.

Most of us had romances when we were teenagers, right? Well, it seems like the author of this book and subsequently the writer of this movie made Mia and Adam act like they are the only two people in the world who have ever faced a separation, whether it's from going off to college, joining a band, or something far greater. In fact, much of their relationship is eye-rolling on screen and in print. Teenagers don't talk the way Adam and Mia do, come on now, we're not naive enough to think they really do. The chemistry was sort of there between Moretz and Blackly, but it didn't feel like the epic love story it was meant to be. In fact, there was only one part of this movie that was actually sad enough to elicit tears; we know from the trailer that her parents die, that part is abundantly clear, but when Mia's grandfather, played by Stacy Keach, tells her comatose body that it's okay if she wants to "go," that he's fine with it? The dialogue he says is truly heartbreaking. I am an adult and I bawled my eyes out, maybe because of real-life experiences, maybe because it was just a sad scene altogether, but either way, I'm not ashamed to admit it.

This is not a perfect movie whether you've read the book or not. Filmmakers can't please everyone. Not everyone will be happy with a book-to-film adaptation. If someone has read the book and had a vision of how things should be portrayed on-screen and their expectations aren't met, they will be angry. In an effort to make books more relateable and adaptable, sometimes creative license is taken at the behest of filmmakers and directors and things are omitted or changed. No one will ever be the perfect cast, there will most likely be changes to the story, and people need to learn to analyze them as separate entities and not take it so personally when their demands aren't met. It's not the book, it's one director's interpretation of the book.

And for people saying this book is just like "The Fault in Our Stars," ARE YOU INSANE?!?! Mia is in an accident, and up until that point, she has a wonderful life with her boyfriend and her cello and can do pretty much whatever the hell she wants because of her hipster parents. Hazel Grace Lancaster from "The Fault in Our Stars" has cancer. Let us repeat that: SHE. HAS. CANCER. These stories are only the same for one reason: they are young adult romances. THAT'S IT. That's where it ends, so just stop.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 41%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

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