What If (2014)

what-if-daniel-radcliffe-zoe-kazanNothing here that breaks the rom-com mould but there’s enough in the way of laughs, longing looks and sharp writing to keep you amused and interested. The end may be predictable as with the majority of these genre of movies but that can easily be forgiven with the strained lead up to what if he finally makes a move. 

Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) is a med school dropout in Toronto helping his sister and nephew while in a state of cynicism after a break up. A house party with his roommate Allan (Adam Driver) leads him to meet and hit it off with Chantry (Zoe Kazan), though she’s quick to reveal she has a long term boyfriend but Wallace says he’s cool to be friends. Of course this developing friendship turns into feelings of something deeper for Wallace but he doesn’t know what to do because what if he says something and it ruins everything? 

It’s nothing you haven’t overly seen before in the case of romantic blossoming and held back emotions but there is a strong case of chemistry displayed by the two leads here that make you buy into their relationship and you can clearly see there’s something between them even if the fact she has a boyfriend means nothing should happen. There is a definite spark in the writing that manifests nicely as some brooding desire and on more than a couple of occasions there’s the possibility that the friendship may snap into something more but then it’s fizzled out again as if it was never there. A realistic feeling to put into the script that also serves as annoyance in knowing it’ll all boil down to that last and final moment for the first kiss. The movie does well to show off the increasing attraction and common placed interests in conversation between Wallace and Chantry but the only flaw to the writing is in the obvious series of events to give them more of a chance together. Having Ben, Chantry’s boyfriend go away on business is such a cliched long distance relationship dilemma, though Ben is presented as quite a dick so you don’t care that it wall probably fall apart with him and Chantry. 

The soundtrack is nice and I’d describe it as twee and lovely, it feels kind of magical and goes along nicely with the repeating images of Chantry represented as her own animation design. The soundtrack songs aren’t as memorable titles as the ones used in Marc Webb’s ‘500 Days of Summer’ but it adds enough needed atmosphere to the story. In fact Chantry’s butterfly visions are a cool tool even if a bit odd now and then. The opening title of the film comes along after a paper drawing drops down into life and flits along a brick wall. It’s a clever way of building up the way that she will fly away and travel to do what she wants to do. Other ideas that take you out of the film in good terms are the cutaways to show the making of Fools Gold and the circles of exes. 

There are some things that grate in terms of realism such as Wallace’s flight back to Toronto and the way he makes it back. The actual ending between the two can split audiences into whether they want that end to happen. The duration of the credits also have Chantry style animations giving further details into the outcome of their lives which is a tad too much. These are the only big negatives I can think of really as on the most part the script is smart, witty and well cut in giving us an engaging and funny film. There’s an incredible and laugh out loud moment of slapstick in the scene when Ben is first introduced, there’s uncomfortable humour that arrives thanks to Wallace and there’s intelligent comedy in lines of dialogue that are spoken, especially when between Wallace and Allan discussing the former’s options in what to do with his pent up feelings towards Chantry.

Daniel Radcliffe is at times stiff in acting as Wallace but during most of the film I found myself finding him very good. It’s definitely his best acting role as he could never really play Potter and it makes me look forward to seeing how he’ll deal with the lead in ‘Horns’. He does extremely well with the typical awkward British stereotype but he excels also in sarcasm and feeding off Kazan’s wit too. There’s a good level of some sadness and pain in his eyes when he’s trying to get to the cafe in Toronto though that entire sequence all becomes a bit too Ross and Rachel for me. Zoe Kazan is wide eyed and brilliant as Chantry and greatly plays confident and sarcastic to match confused and upset. She really showcases her angelic yet vulnerable qualities well as Chantry. There’s a believable strain in tension between her and Radcliffe, this is evident in the changing room scene where you could eat up the amount of sexual tension. Adam Driver is great, really great. He has more of the funny lines to deliver but serves nicely as the good friend with advice too. In fact the secondary characters are brilliant, even small screen time ones do enough to leave you wanting more. There’s Wallace’s ex who gets jealous and awkward down to a fine art. Chantry’s sister played by Megan Park is utterly fantastic in her quest for a rebound. Allan’s new hot squeeze Nicole is just as fantastic in chewing up the animal attraction she and Adam Driver share. Ellie, Wallace’s sister is another great yet small addition that adds a little comedy and story to proceedings and Jemima Rooper shoveling a sandwich in her mouth is gold. It’s a great cast with only Rafe Spall as Ben not having much to do in the way of comedy. 

Predictable? Yes. Boring? No, not at all. Radcliffe does a lot to prove himself and Kazan is a star and together they sell this sharply written rom-com. It may fall down to typical rom-com blueprints by the last third but it’s a well designed ride up until that point that it doesn’t really matter too much. It’s likable if not groundbreaking and side characters do well in adding to the mix leaving you smiling along to most of the story. Fun and dorkishly sweet. 

6.5/10

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