Movie review: Teen romance ‘If I Stay’ suffocated by faux-tragic vibe

First Published Aug 21 2014 03:33PM      Last Updated Aug 22 2014 01:25 pm

If limbo is as smarmy and as overloaded with emo-rock songs as the teen romantic drama "If I Stay" depicts it, I pray for a quick death.

Teen actress Chloë Grace Moretz ("Let Me In," "Hugo") graduates to leading lady playing Mia Hall, a teen cello phenom whose love of Ludwig van Beethoven attracts a rock-playing boyfriend, Adam (Jamie Blackley), whose musical tastes are more in line with those of Mia’s parents, retired rock drummer Denny ("The Blair Witch Project’s" Joshua Leonard) and ex-groupie Kat ("The Killing’s" Mireille Enos).

But when the Halls get involved in a brutal car crash, Mia finds herself out of her comatose body, caught between life and death — roaming the hospital, seeing friends and relatives gather in the waiting room, and having flashbacks of family life, her musical awakening, and the ups and downs of her love affair with Adam.

Documentarian R.J. Cutler ("The September Issue," "A Perfect Candidate") makes his narrative directing debut with this adaptation of Gayle Forman’s young-adult novel, and he gives the film a glossy shine that puts the talented Moretz in the best light. Cutler and Moretz are hamstrung, though, by a script by Shauna Cross ("Whip It") that leans too heavily on sentimentalism and thick slabs of cliché-filled narration.

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‘If I Stay’

Opens Friday, Aug. 22, at theaters everywhere; rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material; 106 minutes.