What If review

whatif-poster-smallWhat If is a fairly obvious romantic comedy that follows Wallace, a young British guy (Daniel Radcliffe) who is down on his luck. He is once again looking for love after a year goes by from when he caught his girlfriend cheating on him. He meets a super cute, super quirky girl named Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a friend’s party and is immediately struck by her ability to engage in a witty repartee with him. He walks her home, asks her out, and she says yes. But—twist!—as she begins writing her number down she reveals that she has a boyfriend of five years. Wallace eventually makes the decision to go where many hopeless romantics have gone before: the friend zone.

At this point I think we can all agree we know what happens over the next hour or so of the film. Wallace is completely in love with Chantry (I’m going to try to minimize referencing her character name to avoid too many more eye rolls) and she decides to remain in denial about acknowledging this and the fact she loves him too. Things begin to go sour in her relationship when it goes long distance, and when Wallace finally comes clean about how he feels, she gets mad at him for not being honest about that from the beginning (all right, one more eye roll). Not only do the two obviously end up together, but also the film takes it one step further and shows their marriage a year or two later, providing one of the biggest happily-ever-after endings in recent indie history.

Luckily for the film, the leading stars have pretty good chemistry. The endless witty banter might be heavy-handed, but the two seem to play nicely off of each other. Then again, the charm could just be a product of Radcliffe’s accent. The jury is still out on that one. Another silver lining of the film would be Wallace’s wacky best friend played by Girls star Adam Driver. Sure, he fits nicely into that rom-com formula, and yeah, okay, he kind of just plays the same character he plays on Girls, but he does it well. His capricious nature and bizarrely high sex drive end up providing most of the film’s funniest bits.

In defense of What If, most romantic comedies aren’t able to break free from the predictable mold of the genre (Annie Hall [1977] being an obvious exclusion). However, there is an air to the movie that seems to suggest it’s somehow “different,” which is what ultimately works against the film the most. If you are able to get past the “I called it from the first five minutes” aspect, and not be too bothered by the egregious use of animation throughout, then this would be a perfectly appropriate movie to flip on during date night with your manic pixie dream girl/boy.

What If  opens in Philly area theaters today.

Official site.

Author: Catherine Haas

Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.

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