Chloë Grace Moretz is at that awkward stage. She became a star as an adolescent and teenage roles have had trouble fitting her. So great and shocking and funny as Hit-Girl in "Kick-Ass," it just didn't fly three years later in the sequel. That moment had passed her by. She was terrific at 13 in the Americanized vampire remake "Let Me In," but by the time she starred in "Carrie" the magic was gone. It's as if she aged herself out of age-appropriate roles by being so good at them before she should have been.
Now she turns her attention to "If I Stay," an adaptation of a young adult novel (YA, if you're into the scene). The premise of this film simply couldn't be a whole lot worse. It's probably there in the book, as well, although you'd think that would have muted its popularity a bit. And yet here we are.
Mia (Moretz) is a supremely gifted cellist for her age. Her parents were into the Seattle grunge scene in the '90s, and even though they've reformed a bit, they're still too hip to have a daughter this square. Or so goes the subtext. She meets and falls for a student one year older. But he's not just any student: Adam (Jamie Blackley) is the next Jeff Buckley or something. He's got a SXSW showcase even without a record deal, you guys! And he's so cute!
One wintry day in Portland, Mia, her hip parents, and her little brother are involved in a horrific car crash. The whole family is in critical condition, but Mia sees it all happening. She's in the throes of an out-of-body experience. It's a pretty severe one, too, because as she's checking in on herself later in the film, out-of-body Mia actually falls asleep somehow.
Her injuries are obviously life-threatening, so all that's left to learn is whether Mia has the wherewithal to continue living. This is the central hook of the entire production: Will she wake up or not? "If I Stay" lays out the case for you, most of it revolving around a tumultuous relationship with Adam. His band is taking off and they're on the road a lot. But Mia might get into Juilliard, which would mean moving across the country. None of this reads as particularly compelling stuff if you've ever had your heart broken, but at least there are no sexy werewolves or vampires in sight.
Not a lot happens between the moment Mia is wheeled into the hospital and the final scenes; it's all flashbacks of relationship stuff. Even the most watchable moments feed into the romantic pablum. Mireille Enos, so fantastic on AMC's "The Killing," hasn't much to do as Mia's mother; she's relegated to comforting her daughter in lovelorn moments, but Enos is a very calming force when she's on screen. Stacy Keach, who got a little revival last year in "Nebraska," is extremely good in a couple scenes, particularly a heartrending monologue to his comatose granddaughter.
Almost nothing else in "If I Stay" is worth watching, sadly. Some of that is forgivable since the film is based on a book written for an age group just learning about the sturm und drang of love, but it's still hokey as shit.
As for Chloë Grace Moretz ... well, they tend to write better scripts for women in their 20s, so we'll just give it a little more time.