It seems to me that over the past few years Hollywood has lost its sense of creativity and is finding more and more scripts from Barnes and Noble. Released Aug. 22, “If I Stay” is a prime example of this.
Written by Gayle Forman, “If I Stay” recounts the story of Mia Hall, a young Julliard-bound cellist from Oregon. Instead of experiencing the events with the narrator like most novels, Mia recounts her life, her thoughts and her emotions while she is in a comatose state. While in a coma, Mia has to decide whether she wants to slip into oblivion or if she wants to continue living.
While I loved the book, I was only lukewarm about the movie. I was disappointed by how few of the endearing details and scenes I loved about the book made it into the movie correctly. The characterization for supporting roles were spot-on, but I didn’t agree with the way Mia was portrayed. The movie wasn’t bad, but fans of the book should know that beyond the basic plot, the movie adaptation of “If I Stay” is not like the book.
One of my favorite scenes is where Mia and her family get into a car accident because Forman describes the car crash in such a vividly artful way. In the book, the entire scene is set against Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No.3, which was playing on the radio before Mia and her family’s car was eviscerated by an oncoming truck. The contrast of the beautiful music against the cacophony of the car gives the scene a haunting quality. It’s almost as if Forman is insinuating a beauty in the horror of death.
Unfortunately, the car crash wasn’t represented in the movie this same way. I can understand not wanting to show the audience a car being smashed to pieces or true-to-life, dead-on-arrival injuries, but still, the unearthly magic of this scene from the book doesn’t make it into the movie.
One of the inconsistencies between the book and the movie that bothered me is the way the deaths were handled. In the book, Mia is the only one of her family that even remotely has a chance at living. Her mother and father both died at the scene and her little brother is taken to a local hospital but is pronounced dead soon after. In the movie, her mother is dead at the scene, but her father survives for a while and her younger brother seems to almost make it before dying of a brain bleed.
Without good characters, it doesn’t matter how good the plot is because the reader won’t be drawn into the story. In the movie adaptation of “If I Stay,” characterization was good, especially that of Mia’s father, Denny, and younger brother, Teddy. Mia’s mom, Kat, and her boyfriend, Adam, weren’t characterized quite as well, but it was still acceptable.
Mia’s characterization was spot on in some places, but weak in others. Some of Mia’s reactions didn’t quite make sense. For example, I didn’t think Mia’s reaction to the crash was quite right. Movie Mia spent a lot of time just standing there, spinning in circles whereas book Mia went straight to work looking for her family.
All in all, I wasn’t wowed by the movie adaptation of Gayle Forman’s “If I Stay,” but I do think it’s worth seeing, especially for fans of the novel. Sure, the characterization isn’t perfect and some of the endearing details from the book are missing, but the movie wasn’t so off that fans shouldn’t see it.