Finally! That was my reaction when I finished watching What If because I, at last, had a new romantic comedy favorite that I could watch over and over again. It’s sweet, it manages to be almost entirely cliché free and it has two very adorable leading actors, Danie Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan! Plus, with the premise taking place in Canada, and with the production being shared with Ireland, What If differs from the typical US rom-coms (thank god!) and shows us realistically how two people should really actually fall in love!
For those who have ventured here recently, I must explain my past with romantic comedies. I used to love them, I was a romance-junkie but then life hit me in the head with realistic expectations and ever since I hit those final teen years, I hate rom-coms. Ironically, I still watch them, it’s just that I’m less amused by them and I like to write bad things about them, especially the plot and the female leads. With my bitter outlook on the whole genre, it is very difficult to impress me with people falling in love on screen but every once in a while, a movie comes along and does almost everything exactly the way it is supposed to be done! In that very same sense, What If was a success. It had all the right elements, it felt genuine and I can’t really explain what my recent affection with Daniel Radcliffe is all about.
Wallace (Radcliffe) has been in a bad place for a while, he hasn’t dated anyone since he broke up with his girlfriend but he finally decides to go to Allan’s (Adam Driver) party. There he meets the interesting and charismatic Chantry (Zoe Kazan), Adam’s cousin who, after a quite successful date-like evening, tells Wallace she has a boyfriend and wants them to be friends. Taken aback with the news Wallace sort of agrees and their story begins.
Now, would you consider that a spoiler? Because for me, the acknowledgment that What If is their story, in terms of what will happen in this romantic comedy, isn’t really a spoiler.. the fresh and surprising aspect is how they will get there. And trust me, What If does it very pleasantly and I’m having a hard time finding all the positive words to describe it all, I’m just smitten with this movie! Plus, I’m super proud of them with keeping Radcliffe’s accent! We see too many British men putting on the American accent and it’s such a shame because let’s be honest, we all love a bit of that smooth British accent with our beloved Brits!
Radcliffe was, like I expected him to be, adorable and sweet. He doesn’t really strike you as the romantic lead, especially next to Adam Driver who is easily towering over him, but he has charisma. And that is something you can’t act but something you already have and for me, Radcliffe has loads of it! The same goes for Kazan, who comes off very quiet and subdued, but has a lot of that sort of unexpected power. So far I have loved her in all her movies, but What If definitely is the favorite from all because the story somehow feels very honest.
Though I slightly mentioned Driver earlier, I just want to make a little confession – I like him a lot! There’s just that odd feeling about him, that came across already in Girls, where Dunham started off writing him to be very unpleasant to my dismay, where he just oozes the sort of caveman like appeal. I mean, I’m not saying I’m all hot for cavemen but it’s most likely some sort of chemical nature blah-blah hormonal thing and Driver is affecting me through that. Plus, his portrayal of the best friend character in What If was rather cool because instead of being the lazy, ugly and less successful version of the lead character, he was actually quite the opposite.
Fighting the clichés in What If was probably the best thing the movie could have done, it didn’t want to have those stereotypical characters and those usual stages of the plot. It also, and here’s a tiny spoiler, didn’t make the boyfriend out to be a jerk! I was literally expecting him to do what the movie hinted towards at one point, but as it turns out, he was also a good guy. Just like Wallace, the boyfriend was a good guy, Allan was a good guy and that’s completely normal! There shouldn’t be good or bad guys but since I expected there to be one, I was extremely surprised when I was shown the opposite to what I had been used to seeing.
Then, as a bonus to the whole movie, was the playfulness of the direction that didn’t take everything too seriously while not bordering on the verge of lame. It’s a really thin line, especially considering one particular scene in the first half the movie, which came extremely close to being ridiculous but was simply toying with the idea, and that is just fine.
I said finally! When it ended too…but that’s because I felt like it would never end. Unfortunately, I’m not as optimistic as you are for the film, and instead saw it as very conventional and very predictable…in short – nothing special. Zoe, of course is an amazing actress that can create amazing chemistry with literally anyone – whether it’s familial, friendly, or romantic chemistry – it just wasn’t enough to be a good movie in my opinion.
I wouldn’t say conventional.. there were no bad guys and that is a rare thing in my books. Also.. there’s something I’ve always wondered… are guys even capable to like a romance comedy 100% ? Like… are we able to like them for the same reasons if we represent different genders? 😀
Haha, well bad guys aren’t very conventional for rom-coms – as for can guys like them 100%, I believe so. There are some I really enjoy – for instance Joss Whedon’s recent ‘In Your Eyes’ is absolutely amazing in my opinion (Also Zoe Kazan) – while we’re at her career, Ruby Sparks is one of my favorite movies period. The only other movie I can think of right now is About Time, which I also really enjoyed- and to be fair, I did give The Notebook a 79%
While these aren’t exactly your typical rom-com in film, that’s exactly why I like them – they offer something very different to the table while still bringing in amazing talent as far as chemistry goes. It’s not only about romance and chemistry, it’s also about originality. In my opinion
I’m aware the Notebook isn’t a comedy, too. Just thought I’d throw a vastly known romance in there as well
The Notebook would be a drama in my eyes.. rom-drama or something. I did enjoy Ruby Sparks but not as much as I thought I would but then again I’ve only now become addicted to romcoms. And is the In You Eyes the Shakespeare one? Can’t place it at all in my head at the moment and I dont think I will watch it. Would Don Jon classify into your list? Or 500 Days With Summer.. they are the two I know that have a male perspective without the woman’s….
You’re thinking Much Ado about Nothing. In Your Eyes is more recent and very limited in how it was released – but it is available on VOD. It’s about these two people that never met that for whatever reason can hear each others thoughts and see through each other’s eyes when they focus – they obviously fall for each other.
Never did see Don Jon – but yes, 500 Days of Summer is another movie high on my list (89%) Ruby Sparks, I do believe I gave 98% though, which is why I mentioned that specifically.
Uuuh. I must see this In Your Eyes! Though indeed you spoiled the rnding but then again.. the genre spoiled it for itself
Like you said in your review of this movie – it’s the road they take to get to the end
I really, really enjoyed this film!! I was not 100% sure Daniel Radcliffe could do rom-com but he definitely nailed his role in this film. And Zoe Kazan was equally great. What I loved most about the film was the banter between the characters. It felt real and authentic. I dunno. I was just pleased with what I saw and heard. I also loved how Daniel Radcliffe was promoting the film with a few Youtubers. The sketches had me giggling I won’t lie 🙂
It seems I have a higher tolerance for rom-coms than you (haha) but I do agree that this film was indeed refreshing!
Great review! I hate rom coms too, and even though this one had a lot of typical rom com cliches, I still enjoyed it. Radcliffe and Kazan were wonderful.
Hey, glad you liked What If too! It’s one of my favorite rom-coms because it does have that genuine feel to it. And like you said, the leads really sell it in the best way possible. They both have their share of charisma. I kind of like to think of it as the When Harry Met Sally of this generation. Great review!
I agree with this message. 😀
Yeah, I also really liked this and the way it dealt with that age old question if men and women can “just be friends” or if eventually more might happen.