UK Release Date: 20th August 2014
Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer: Elan Mastai
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Rafe Spall, Mackenzie Davis, Megan Park
Synopsis: When a man’s perfect match also happens to be his best friend, his feelings begin to threaten a number of different relationships.
There’s a reason that the romcom is a maligned genre. The majority of entries in its canon are either mawkish lovefests or macho-pandering nonsense. Occasionally however, something really smart and interesting arrives, such as Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer, that really grabs the genre by the scruff of its neck and gives it a shake. What If does exactly that.
Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) is feeling low and cynical in the face of his last failed relationship and the ongoing promiscuity of his friend Allan (Adam Driver). At a party, whilst Allan is occupied with new girlfriend Nicole (Mackenzie Davis), Wallace meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) and they instantly hit it off. The only spanner in the works is that Chantry already has a partner (Rafe Spall) and just wants to be friends.
Daniel Radcliffe has made consistently interesting choices since the end of the Harry Potter franchise, with chilling horror movies (The Woman In Black) and intriguing indies (Kill Your Darlings) filling his slate. In What If, Radcliffe supplies a great performance that showcases a real aptitude for comedy as a romcom leading man. Perhaps the boy wizard has found his niche?
| "Love is just an all-purpose excuse for selfish behaviour."
The centre of What If is the excellent chemistry between Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Scenes between the two always have an improvised feel, which means their relationship never seems to be built on anything other than a natural rapport.
In isolation, the general narrative arc of What If is fairly unremarkable. There are romantic clichés by the bucketload as well, with airport dashes and contrived, awkward intimacy present and correct. However, the film manages to rise above these tropes with its sheer charm and near endless supply of laughs.
The main problem with What If is its ending. It initially teases an ambiguous conclusion to the story, before eliminating all of that with a credits sequence that makes everything clear in an instant. Instead of a climax that reflects the ambiguity of life, What If plays out just like every other generic romcom.
| "Is this always how you make friends – like it’s a business deal?"
Despite its flaws, What If is a consistently entertaining couple of hours in the company of some excellent comedy performers. It doesn’t matter that the destination of the journey is obvious because the journey is an awful lot of fun.
Pop or Poop?
Showcasing the comedy chops of some brilliant young actors, What If is a romcom that largely sidesteps the common pitfalls of the genre.
The prickly relationship between Radcliffe and Kazan is a real delight, with Adam Driver chipping in on top form ahead of his villainous Star Wars role.
It cops out with an identikit ending and an over-reliance on some of the more irritating genre clichés, but it delivers where it really needs to – the laughs.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.