If I Stay Is Typical Teen Tragedy
But hey, the supporting performances are pretty good.
Rated PG-13, 106 min. Directed by R.J. Cutler. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Jamie Blackley, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Jakob Davies, Liana Liberato, Stacy Keach.
To your average teenager, everyday trials can take on the grandeur of world-ending tragedy. If I Stay, a screen adaptation of Gayle Forman’s young adult novel takes that pretense one step further, hamfistedly equating the romantic woes of cello prodigy Mia (Grace Moretz) with a post-mortal limbo from which her stranded spirit observes the aftermath of a fateful car accident, a crash that put her in a coma while claiming the lives of Mom (Mireille Enos), Dad (Joshua Leonard), and her younger brother (Jakob Davies).
We’re spared the otherworldly garishness and tonal whiplash of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, but this fusion of milquetoast romance and maudlin handwringing remains beholden to a questionable degree of wish fulfillment. (Not to knock Blackley’s suitably angsty performance, but even Adam’s daddy issues seem dreamy.) Much of the emotional burden falls on Moretz, a talented young actress in her first romantic lead. More comfortable subverting the teenage ideal as killer kids in the Kick-Ass films, Let Me In, and last year’s Carrie remake, or as scheming starlets on 30 Rock and the upcoming Clouds of Sils Maria, it turns out that dressed-down earnestness doesn’t suit Moretz nearly as well.
However, just when If I Stay seems like nothing more than a showcase for hollow heartache, an ancillary player will bring some honest feeling to the table, whether it’s Leonard and Enos’ punk-rocker parents offering hard-earned advice or Stacy Keach delivering tearful guidance as Mia’s distraught grandfather. Their few genuine moments throw into even sharper relief the tedious trappings which surround this, your average teenage tragedy.
Now playing at Hillside, IPic/Bayshore, Majestic, Mayfair Mall, Menomonee Falls, North Shore, Ridge, Saukville, Showtime, South Shore, Southgate.