What If

What If photo starrating-2andahalfstars.jpgCan men and women be “just friends“? That’s the age old question that What If address within its well worn story structure, Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) becomes infatuated with Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a party only to discover that she already has a boyfriend at the very end of their evening together. Chantry maintains she loves her current beau but would like to remain friends. Wallace agrees. Things don’t go as planned.

What If isn’t wholly generic but it isn’t particularly innovative either. Surprisingly, Chantry’s boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall) isn’t made out to be a complete jerk. You could imagine the two of them getting married and living a happy life. Although Ben’s first interaction with Wallace is rude and it causes the audience to dislike Ben right from the start, despite his sincere devotion to Chantry. What If does indeed have moments of relaxed whimsy. Radcliffe and Kazan are charming up to a point and they generate enough chemistry to sustain interesting discussions. They share a scene in a diner and a conversation about a disgusting sandwich known as Fool’s Gold was something I had never heard before. More often than not, however, these offhand fragments feel like the carefully orchestrated fabrications of a writer. The twee stretches outweigh the periods of genuine honest emotion.

Chantry’s latent attraction becomes frustrating. In spite of her exhortations that she doesn’t want a romantic relationship, her actions speak otherwise. Upon their first meeting, Chantry flirts conspicuously with Wallace at the party. It’s shocking when she abruptly reveals she is already spoken for when he drops her off. They spent an entire evening together. She couldn’t mention this earlier? Their accidental meeting at a revival showing of The Princess Bride is another mixed signal flirtatious conversation as well. Chantry is a complex woman and she remains a compelling individual, but her behavior develops into this cat-and-mouse game where she seems to express an attraction towards Wallace, then gets indignant when he responds. Then there is her exceptionally bizarre reaction late in the narrative. Her amorous feelings prompts a grand declaration of love from him. Her subsequent response renders her character a most confounding object of befuddlement.

What If is all about when men and women enter the “friend” zone. The picture frequently recalls the far superior When Harry Met Sally both in subject matter and alliances. Wallace and Chantry embark on a platonic relationship. She opens up to her sister Dalia (Megan Park) for advice. He confides in his buddy Allan (Adam Driver). Allan also happens to be Chantry’s cousin. More quirkiness. The production was originally titled The F Word when it was released at the 2013 Toronto film festival in September. That the filmmakers ditched that significantly more zesty title for a humdrum one, actually belies the movie’s true heart. What If is pleasant enough but the slightness of the story ultimately relegates this affair to little more than passable time filler.

08-17-14

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15 Responses to “What If”

  1. Sounds lame.

  2. Seems to echo what I would think of this as well, but I’m always down for an inoffensive pseudo-rom-com. And I like how Radcliffe is stepping feet into all these different genres now. I haven’t seen Kazan in awhile either.

  3. I’m going to watch this because of Zoe Kazan. She was great on Ruby Sparks. 😀

  4. davecrewe Says:

    Kazan, Radcliffe and Driver has me interested I suppose, but from the sounds of your review they don’t do a whole lot with the (already pretty unimaginative) concept…

    • Kazan is charming. I’d like to see more of her.

      Kyle Smith of the New York Post called it “When Harry (Potter) Met Sally” in his scathing review. I thought that was a clever description.

  5. Shame to hear this is a poor effort. I really like the sound of Radcliffe, Kazan and Driver bouncing off each other, but hey ho. Whilst watching the trailer recently, I did think the whole ‘can men and women be friends?’ question had been well and truly covered by Crystal and Ryan anyhow.

  6. Seemed good, and for the most part it was. The ending was very very lame. 2 1/2 stars.

  7. I’ve heard varying things about this film from the extremely positive, to the extremely negative. It seems like your review falls somewhere in the middle. “Passable time filler” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement haha. I must say though, that I’m not feeling too encouraged to see it based on your comment about twee outweighing genuine emotion. That sounds like the kind of pretentiousness I could do without.

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