No matter how excited I am when one of my favorite books gets adapted for the silver screen, there's always a sliver of paranoia that seeps into my brain and reminds me to make like Flo Rida and keep my expectations low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low.
But then something like the If I Stay trailer comes out and I get all choked up at work and SUCK IT, FLO RIDA, these boots with the fur were made for walking straight into the theater with bated breath.
So yeah, when I saw If I Stay earlier this week, I had some standards. I had some hopes. And I'm very pleased to tell you that Hollywood didn't eff it up this time.
Y'all probably have the same questions about the film that I did, so I figured I would get right to the point.
Is it true to the book?
Yes! Mostly! I think so.
Okaaaaay, on the real, I haven't reread the book in a while because I don't have a heart condition and I want to keep it that way. But, all of my most cherished parts of the story were definitely included in the film, and the only thing that felt out of place was Adam's family background. But even that alteration wasn't a huge deal.
(I think we all know that they changed the name of the band, which I consider an improvement.)
Does it feel Lifetime or lifelike?
On the surface, the whole concept of If I Stay seems like something Nicholas Sparks would pen, but Gayle Forman's writing elevates the premise to heartbreaking levels of emotional complexity. It's tough to transplant that essence into film, but overall, this adaptation still hits those notes of authenticity. The screenplay is good, but the real credit goes to the cast, particularly Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard as Mia's parents. They are, hands down, the best feature of the movie, and the family dynamic they create with Chloë Grace Moretz (Mia) and Jakob Davies (Teddy) is so palpably warm that I felt like I was wrapped up in a cozy blanket every time they were on screen together. (I mean, the backyard campfire scene, when everyone is playing instruments and singing the Smashing Pumpkins' "Today"... I thought I would hate it, because it's a little too hippie-ish for me but SOMEONE HAND ME A TAMBOURINE.) Enos and Leonard are utterly believable as aging rocker parents, cool but not too cool, and Leonard in particular had so many great "dad" lines. (The Alice Cooper reference was probably my favorite.) I do wish Teddy had been more prominent, but even when he's just in the background, sweetly cuddling with his mom or chowing down on a plate of white rice, he still makes me want to hug him hard.
It gets tougher for the film not to stumble into Cheesytown when Mia's spirit is running around the hospital because... Mia's spirit is running around the hospital. Mortez is a talented actress, and she did just fine in this role, but she never really dived into the depth of her character. Same goes for Jamie Blackley as Adam, but more on that below.
Is Adam hot enough?
The short answer is YES. He's so hot, in fact, that I'm planning to start a petition to get Where She Went made into a film just so I can see Jamie (yes, we're on a first name basis) waltz around New York City in a brooding cloud of smolder.
The long answer is that Jamie isn't quite as soulful as I would have hoped, but when he's on stage, singing his heart out and thrashing around on that guitar, HOT DAMN. It would have been so easy for the movie to get Adam's band so wrong, but their songs are great, and all of his musical performances are straight up killer. I would totally be a
Shooting Star Willamette Stone groupie, is what I'm saying.
And off stage, he's just as swoonworthy. The scene when he first talks to Mia at her locker is the stuff that teenage (and okay, adult) girl fantasies are made of.
How many tissues are needed?
Y'all, I came REALLY prepared. I brought three tissues and ended up giving one to my fellow book club member, because I'm a compassionate person. But here's the thing-- I only needed one! I KNOW! I'm as surprised as you are!
Because when I read the book, I cried so hard that, even hours later, I looked like I was having some sort of allergic reaction. Somebody should have called the Ghostbusters because my face was STAY PUFT.
With the movie, I teared up twice, and I had tears run down my face twice (I took notes on my crying, as a professional journalist), but there was no sobbing, there was no snot, and there were no long, shuddering breaths. One explanation is that I couldn't drink in the theater (it wasn't at an Alamo Drafthouse, LAME). But the other explanation is that the movie just wasn't as good as the book. Spoiler alert, I just answered the next question!
Is it as good as the book?
Are you even listening? I just told you!
In all seriousness, of course this movie isn't as good as the book. That's a dumb question because that's impossible. But, with that said, it's a wonderfully moving tribute to Gayle Forman's work. By painting a vibrant portrait of Mia and her family, the film washes over you in soft, poignant waves, enveloping you in this messy, extraordinary thing called life.
I can't wait for y'all to see it so we can convo! Most importantly, I want to know if I'm the only one who needs Mia's outfit in my closet like yesterday.