The appalling 'If I Stay' is cello pudding

Matt Pais movie review: 'If I Stay'

'If I Stay'

'If I Stay' (August 20, 2014)

0.5 stars (out of four)

This movie is so bad I sort of can’t believe it.

In the appalling “If I Stay,” a guaranteed Oscar winner if the Academy adds a category for Movie Most Likely to Mislead Viewers About Comas, Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) has an out of body experience that doesn’t just allow her to see herself lying on the surgery table and in a hospital bed. She sprints down hospital hallways, eavesdrops on conversations and gives herself a pep talk about why she should live. It might be the most ridiculous onscreen device since Saoirse Ronan argued with the alien being inside her body in “The Host.”

After the less-horrendous “The Giver,” this marks two consecutive weeks that bad YA adaptations (“If I Stay” comes from the novel by Gayle Forman) have forced me to mention “The Host.” I feel nauseated.

When Purgatory Mia isn’t giving bizarrely unemotional reactions to news in the hospital—Moretz, normally very good, has never seemed so lost—inept director R.J. Cutler shows Mia’s life before her tragic car accident. Her cello skills catch the eye of Adam (Jamie Blackley), an 18-year-old who behaves and talks like a 28-year-old womanizer. “You can’t hide in that rehearsal room forever,” he tells Mia. “It’s too late. I see you.” All of the dialogue in this disaster is like that: goopy and phony.

Adam, whose band is taking off, never considers leaving Portland, Ore., even though his career would benefit from a move to New York, where Mia may attend Juilliard. He freaks about the potential of a long-distance relationship, even though he’s been on tour for a year and things are fine. This is the sort of horribly-written movie where a teenage rock star isn’t at all tempted on the road. Mia and Adam also compare getting it on to musical dynamics, which is as erotic as a tuba solo. 

Featuring a song by the Orwells and a Swedish/Norwegian cover of Beyonce’s “Halo,” the manipulative, visually ugly film is utter nonsense. A doctor watches Mia as she’s wheeled into the operating room and declares, “If she wants to live, she better start fighting.” Another leans over Mia and comments that it’s up to her if she lives or dies. For future reference, a life-threatening injury is a slightly more serious topic than a choose-your-own-adventure book or Buster’s hilarious fake coma on “Arrested Development.”

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.

mpais@tribune.com

 

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