Film Talk: If I Stay

I’m so sorry it’s taken such a long time to get this review up. I’ve tried in a multitude of ways to make an actual vlog because…there’s stuff to say. I mean, Jamie Blackley? Hubba hubba. But technology, at least of the video posting variety, is not my friend. I probably could have gotten my twelve-year-old to figure it out in two seconds, but there this thing called pride.

Have you seen the film, If I Stay yet? And if so, what did you think? I saw it at one of those early release Thursday night showings. There were no dudes in the theater, which, while not surprising, I found funny. I went with two dear friends who love the books, and we had our tissues in hand.

I have to say, I really liked it. I think it’s absolutely a fan’s movie. It is, of course, possible to enjoy it if you haven’t read the book, but as is true in all cases, the book is always better. Let’s break it down:

THE CAST

Mia and Adam

Mia and Adam

I thought this group was put together beautifully. I initially had my doubts about Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia only because I still see her as that foul-mouthed cutie from Kick Ass, but she held her own as this strong young woman who is literally grappling with life and death. Jamie Blackley was divine as Adam because, well, Adam is Adam, flawed and perfect all at the same time. He captured that desperate way Adam loves Mia, a heartfelt, soulful guy rolled up into a rocker on the verge of something big.

More than anyone else in the film—more than Kim, or Teddy, or Grandpa—I loved Mia’s parents, Kat and Denny. They were played so well by Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard. I fell in love with these characters in each book, this quirky balance of aging rockers meet loving, hip, parents. They are innately cooler than their daughter, at least, in her eyes. And these actors nail it. They are Kat and Denny.

Mom and Dad encouraging Mia, as always.

Mom and Dad encouraging Mia, as always.

Dad and teddy

Dad and Teddy

Dad with Teddy as a baby. OMG. Be right back there’s something in my eye.

 

The Changes

Every movie does it. Sometimes it seems quite necessary, other times it makes no sense to me. In this film there are minor changes and some details left out, but nothing HUGE. Adam’s background is a little different and I guess that was supposed to make him seem edgier. After the accident there are some changes in terms of injuries and who is hurt at what times (meaning, Mia’s dad is not killed on impact). It didn’t feel necessary to me, but it didn’t really change things either.

I think they kept the most important scenes. I would have loved to have seen Mia reading Harry Potter with Teddy (that’s possibly due to the super Harry Potter nerd in me). The issue of Mia and Julliard was a much bigger deal, not only in whether Mia lives or dies, but before the accident, in terms of her relationship with Adam. Of course, the book doesn’t go into exhaustive detail about it really, we just know she and Adam have reached a difficult crossroads in their relationship just before the accident. Overall, it made him feel more demanding.

The Swoons

Yes, they’re all there. Jamie Blackley is quite adept as Adam. He hits the right note, balancing that aching love Adam has for Mia with this sexy confidence Adam has in all things. AS HE SHOULD. There are many lines taken directly from the book, and while they’re beautifully written in the novel, in some moments they feel a little cringeworthy. As with many book to film translations, it’s so different to read those words than to say them out loud.

And can we talk about the sex scene? I took issue with this part of the book, mostly because I was never entirely sure what happened (If you’ve figured it out, that’s great. Don’t e-mail me or anything).  It was really my only complaint about the novel (other than the band name which, thank God, has been changed in the film). But that whole “play me” business? Gone. They have a scene that alludes to sex and it involves chords in music, but it’s tastefully done and gets the point across without any cheese factor. That was definitely a positive change.

Also, I’ve heard some criticism of Mia and her uncertainty about her self worth, about where she fits into her family, and about whether or not Adam really loves her. I cannot tell you how much this aggravates me because, guess what? She’s a teenager. Not only that, she’s a human. I don’t know anyone who had the answers as a kid. As an adult, I’m still grappling.

The Music

Stellar. The fact that Jamie Blackley is a real musician played into it all, I’m sure, but I found myself wanting to go to a Willamete Stone show. Mia has this great moment where she’s explaining to Kim that sometimes after one of Adam’s shows she just wants to lick his face. Normally, I’d say that’s super-gross, but I have to say I SO GET YOU MIA. Maybe when my husband comes home from a tough day of teaching, I’ll lick his face. You never know what love will drive you to do, right?

Here’s a quick clip of the band:

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this movie and yeah, I totally cried. There are some melodramatic  moments, but overall it was good. It wasn’t a perfect film, but at the end of the day, I found it to be a thoughtful tribute to a book fans loved.

Recently I’ve read a ton of reviewers who are doing the whole “it’s not The Fault in Our Stars thing. This irks me to no end. Outside of the fact that this film is based on a widely successful YA novel, they are completely different. I hate to see them compared in such a way because while yes, they are stories that grapple with death, and love, and life, they are not the same. For all those who want to bash If I Stay as though it’s some sad copy, please remember, If I Stay came first. I say this as an honest devotee to The Fault in Our Stars. Trust me, there’s room for both stories and both films.

Let me leave you with this, one of my favorite scenes in the book, beautifully translated into one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Here a short clip:

 

 

 

 

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