If I Stay

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If I stayPHOTOThe YA novels are rapidly becoming a popular genre for film. We had The Giver recently and A Fault in Our Stars a few months ago. For the teens that loved that, they should line up. This is very similar to Fault in Our Stars, but with a less talented a cast, in an interpretation of the Gayle Forman novel.

The lead role of Mia is played well by Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), who has matured nicely into a cute leading lady. Her boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley), is one of those movie cliché characters the teen girls will go nuts over, but isn’t the least bit realistic. He’s an older guy at the school, in a popular rock band, and when he walks the halls – everyone at school acts the way the characters did when John Travolta walked into the disco in Saturday Night Fever.

Adam has that local level of fame, and he chooses the “nerdy” girl that sits in the music room playing her cello. Maybe you can’t fault him there. I can remember a James Bond movie, and a Nicholson film, where a woman looked rather attractive working the cello.

Mia’s locker has stickers that say “I Love Yo Yo Ma.” Of course he wouldn’t choose the gorgeous blonde cheerleader, or the cute rocker that looks like Joan Jett and has more in common with him.

The hippie (and hip) parents (Joshue Leonard, Mireille Enos) love the kid. They like that he’s bringing their daughter out of her shell, and that he knows a lot about music (especially the dad’s band “Nasty Bruises” who had a big local following, and were probably huge in Japan).

It’s not a spoiler (since it’s in the commercials and the title of the movie) to say that after a car crash kills her parents, her spirit hovers above her remaining family and boyfriend. This leaves a decision —  does she go into the white light, or does she stay with the dream boyfriend and pursue her dreams of going to Julliard? If she goes into the light, does her boyfriend write sad blues dirges and sing about his love dying? If she stays with him, does he become the next Rick Springfield? And if she goes into the white light, who will take care of her little brother? What will the grandfather do? And who just turned on the blue light of their cell phone next to me? Do they want to go into that white light?!!!

The grandfather is played wonderfully by Stacy Keach. Seeing the joy he gets from watching Mia play the cello seemed really authentic and it was touching.

Yet as much as I want to gripe about this film, it did a handful of scenes surprisingly well. There’s the way she tries to fit in with his rocker friends and the bar scene. The family gatherings seem fun and are very realistically written.  And instead of some goofy scene in a movie like this where a guy builds a sculpture for the woman to show some amazing gesture of love – we adore the bracelet he has made her. It has a guitar and a cello next to each other. It was such a touching gift, it almost made me forget the often horrible dialogue. For example, she’s going to lose her virginity to him. She’s nervous, until he leans in and says, “Think of it like we’re playing music together.”

Lines like that made my eyes roll, and had me yearning to see Seth Rogen’s head pop up saying, “Want to play a skin flute?”

There was a scene where Mia gets drunk, and I loved how she wasn’t over-the-top with it, and her character could still be cute. Often times in movies, when somebody is drunk they’re just completely out of their minds and you wonder why the boyfriend would spend another second with her. She was more playful with her boyfriend, and could still hold a conversation.

As a critic, I want to rip this movie apart. Yet when I saw Mia’s younger brother in a hospital bed with tubes all over his face, I broke down. When a caring nurse (Aisha Hinds) whispers encouraging things in the comatose patient’s ear – how can you not shed a tear?

The intro borrowed heavily from Mr. Holland’s Opus and the script is rather corny. Yet I loved hearing all the cello music and it’s always great to see Husker Du and Clash posters on a wall; and how could you not love a kid that quotes Alice Cooper lyrics and listens to Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” on his ipad?

Here’s a quick check list to determine if this movie is for you:

Manipulative – check

Music montages — check

Melodramatic – check

Corny – check

Contrived – check

Teens crying harder than they have since the time their parents confiscated their cell phone – check.

It gets 2 stars out of 5.