What If (2014)
Director: Michael Dowse
Writers: Elan Mastai, T.J. Dawe, Michael Rinaldi
Cast: Danielle Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Megan Park, Mackenzie Davis, Rafe Spall, Lucius Hoyos, Jemima Rooper, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Meghan Heffern, Jonathan Cherry, Rebecca Northan, Jordan Hayes, Oona Chaplin, Adam Fergus
Synopsis: Wallace, who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry, who lives with her longtime boyfriend. Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content, including references throughout, partial nudity and language
8 / 10
- Paced well
- Nice script, with some strong character development.
- Acting was good
- Danielle Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan have a lot of great chemistry together
- Adam Driver was funny
- None of the characters are reduced to generic stereotypes with quirks, like in most romantic comedies.
- Although the film subverts a lot of cliched stereotypes with it's character writing, the film itself still manages to succumb to a lot of cliches that plagues the romantic comedy genre.
- Because of the cliches this film falls into, it makes "What If" extremely predictable.
Everything "No Strings Attached" and "Friends with Benefits" wished they could be is exactly what "What If" manages to achieve
While I hesitate to call this the best romantic comedy that I've ever seen, "What If" still contains a lot of heart, and a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it charming in it's own unique way. The story follows a young man by the name of Wallace, who's played by none other than "Harry Potter" himself, Daniel Radcliffe. Wallace recently got out of a bad relationship, and he seems to possess a rather jaded view on life in general.
Like most protagonists of this ilk, he meets a young girl that seems to be the exact opposite of him, by the name of Chantry (Zoe Kazan). After meeting at a party, the two of them instantly hit it off, and they decide to become close friends. Chantry lives with her fiance, who seems like a nice guy. Surprisingly, the film doesn't fall into the same stereotypical romantic comedy cliche of making Chantry's fiance come off as a douchebag, so the main protagonist won't look like a complete d*** for thinking about stealing his girl. Thankfully, this film seems to be bit too smart to pull off that cheap trick.
No, this film merely relies on it's own clever writing and character development between the two main protagonists. Even though Wallace is trying to steal another man's girl, you can't help but sympathize with his character anyway. As we learn more about Wallace's past, we soon learn that Wallace is actually a decent guy that's just been hurt a lot in his life.
Chantry brings a sense of unbridled optimism about life that acts as a counter balance to Wallace's jaded view of reality. And unlike her fiance that we rarely ever see in this feature, it seems like Wallace and Chantry have a lot of things in common as well. Talking for hours about nonsensical things like food, and even sharing a few deep intimate moments together. Whereas with Chantry's fiance, he's always busy because of his job, so they rarely ever get to see each other. Sure, he's jealous of Wallace constantly hanging around his girl, and doesn't trust him. Yet, it's never outside the realm of reason,
However, that doesn't mean "What If" is completely innocent, when it comes to falling into the same classic cliches that we've seen before in other romantic comedies of this ilk. For example, you still have the would be best friend that tells Wallace it's a bad idea to go after Chantry, but he inevitably helps him out anyway. Both love interests claim not to have any kind of romantic feelings for one another, but they're both lying through their teeth about it.
Throughout the movie, there's several situations where it allows them to get intimate with one another on an emotional level. Don't get me wrong, they never sleep together, but they do share a lot of moments together that allows them to become close.
You still have the classic fight around the end of the second act over some bulls*** misunderstanding. And if you're familiar with the romantic comedy genre in general, then you know exactly how this movie plays itself out. It's classic rom com 101 up in this place, but "What If" makes up for it with it's clever character writing.
Unlike most romantic comedies, the writers treat all the characters as if they're real people; without resorting to generic stereotypes and quirks to define any of the main characters. Instead of relying on cheap cliche gimmicks to make the audience sympathize with Wallace, the film relies heavily on it's own clever writing to make the audience care about the characters. It's during these moments that "What If" is at it's best.
The film moves at a good pace, and I have to admit the script seems very well written. Sure, it still has a lot of cliches in it, and if you've seen a lot of romantic comedies of this ilk before, then chances are you know exactly how "What If" plays out before even seeing it in theaters. However, in spite of these flaws, "What If" still manages to be enjoyable for what it is.
Although I doubt this film will make anyone see past Daniel Radcliffe's "Harry Potter" character, and see him as a legitimate actor. However, I thought he put in a great performance in this one. He had a sharp wit about him, and he was able to convey the inner turmoil of his character whenever it was required of him. If you're able to see past his Harry Potter character, then you'll probably love his performance in this one.
Zoe Kazan plays her part rather well, as the doe-eyed young girl with a heart of gold. Granted, her character can come off as a bit naive sometimes, but she's genuinely likable enough to where you can never bring yourself to hate her.
As for the rest of the cast, everyone seems to play their parts rather well. Adam Driver was simply hilarious as Wallace's best friend, as he added quite a bit of humor to the film.
Overall, "What If" is a fairly decent date film if you're looking for something watch on a Saturday night. Sure, it's not one of the best that I've seen this year, but it's worth checking out if you're looking for a nice romantic comedy to get into.
© 2014 Steven Escareno
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