Review Roundup: Best-Selling YA Novel IF I STAY Hits Theaters Today
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IF I STAY, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, hits theaters today, August 22nd.
In the movie, Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) thought the hardest decision she would ever face would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or follow a different path to be with the love of her life, Adam (Jamie Blackley). But what should have been a carefree family drive changes everything in an instant, and now her own life hangs in the balance. Caught between life and death for one revealing day, Mia has only one decision left, which will not only decide her future but her ultimate fate.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: The grief and sorrow are punctuated, and to some extent made bearable, by jabs of warmth and humor arising from family affection and adolescent romance. The director, R. J. Cutler...has a way of underplaying large feelings and amplifying subtle shifts of mood...It may be that Ms. Moretz captures Mia's seriousness about her art -- and her joy in it -- so credibly because it reflects her own. At 17 and already a decade into her career, this remarkable actress is still exploring the far reaches of her range, and it's always exciting to watch her test herself. Playing a more or less ordinary teenager facing more or less typical pressures is not easy, and to the extent that "If I Stay" is genuinely interesting as well as weep-worthy, it is largely because of her.
Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press: Like all successful YA novels brought to screen, "If I Stay," based on the 2009 teen tearjerker by Gayle Forman, brings with it a ready-made audience. All the filmmakers need do is cast the most appealing couple they can find and stay faithful to the story, and the kids should be happy. It's safe to say director R.J. Cutler has done that -- Moretz is beautiful to look at, and as her rocker boyfriend, Jamie Blackley is satisfyingly sensitive and hunky. And they have good lips. This is one screen couple that knows how to kiss. If only the dialogue worked as well. Shauna Cross' script lapses into syrupy platitudes far too often. Just as a scene is building, you may suddenly feel like you've walked into a life-size Hallmark card.
Jon Frosch, The Hollywood Reporter: It's easy to see why Chloe Grace Moretz wanted to be in If I Stay -- it's an adaptation of a hit YA book, she's a rapidly rising star and the role is her first full-fledged romantic lead. But a few minutes into the drippy teen love-and-death story, you'll likely wish she hadn't. That is, unless you're a teenager yourself, which may mean you'll be swooning too hard to be bothered by the lame dialogue, heartstring-yanking music and tired visual approach...It doesn't help that Cutler relies on a stable of formal clichés, including a falling-in-love montage, a boozy party shot in handheld, a blast of white light when an unconscious character drifts toward death and a scene in which the camera circles Mia anxiously as she overhears bad news.
Justin Chang, Variety: A horrific road accident leaves a teenage girl stranded between life and death in "If I Stay," a life-flashing-before-her-eyes melodrama that similarly hovers in a weird limbo between sensitivity and clumsiness. Out-of-body experiences and gooey romantic interludes aside, this adaptation of Gayle Forman's 2009 bestseller hinges on the sort of relatably horrific worst-nightmare scenario that naturally invites, and rewards, a certain level of viewer empathy. But while many in the audience may well find themselves getting misty-eyed as the screen fades to white and softly crooned rock tunes flood the soundtrack, the overall execution is so pedestrian that it's possible to feel more moved by the filmmakers' good intentions than by the actual emotional content onscreen.