The Short- Creative and colorful, What If gets past its common Rom-Com themes thanks to the magnetic chemistry of Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Snappy dialogue between characters and a supporting cast that includes the fantastic Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, What If is nicely directed and memorable.
In 2009 500 Days of Summer changed the romantic comedy genre, it showed not all rom-coms needed to follow the same pattern. If 500 Days of Summer is the benchmark for which we evaluate all other romantic comedies from now until eternity then this is closer to Marc Webb‘s creation than most. What If follows Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) a cynical med school dropout living with his sister in Toronto. While at his former college roommates (Adam Driver) party he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) a smart and funny girl who clicks with Wallace almost instantly. Following two encounters at the party Wallace believes he may have found someone until he realizes she already has a serious boyfriend, this forces Wallace to befriend Chantry while everyone around him attempts to convince him that the friendship will never work. What If may not transcend the romantic comedy genre and it still may rely on some of those genre twists it is cleverly written and wonderfully casted. Based on a play(Toothpaste and Cigars) written by TJ Dawe and Michael Rinaldi with a script by Elan Mastai (who I will get to in a second) What If has the feel of something meant for a Broadway stage with its conversations and slick sarcastic dialogue taking center stage.
What If is at times fully carried by the chemistry of its cast. Radcliffe and Kazan are dynamic together on screen while Adam Driver steals a number of moments he and Radcliffe also have a fun relationship and friendship in the film that seems to work very well. What If’s biggest ally is its cast and that is what makes it more than just your normal rom-com. Radcliffe’s quick banter at first almost seems odd, considering the Harry Potter star is wading into foreign waters, yet once he begins to bring Wallace to life you are glued to the screen.
Daniel Radcliffe has turned his role as the boy who lived into a career of consistent acting work continues to evolve as an actor, whether it was appearing in a Broadway play as a crippled Irish boy in The Cripple of Inishmaan this year (A play I saw and thoroughly enjoyed) or his next few roles that will take him into horror territory with Alexander Aja’s Horns or as Igor in Frankenstein which hits theaters in October of 2015. The British thespian is tackling every genre with total success. He manages to bring an aspect of heartbreak to his performance and he also scores highly during the films funnier moments. Along with Radcliffe is Ruby Sparks breakout actress/writer Zoe Kazan who by the end of the film is the biggest gift we could have been rewarded. Following the success of Ruby Sparks, Kazan has become an unsung hero of the Indie film. She absolutely brings something fresh to the screen. Kazan is a vibrant actress and thanks to her instant chemistry with Radcliffe it’s easy to understand why Wallace would be so easily friendzone’d.
I am a cynical watcher of romantic comedies; I think most of them are a half assed, boring, predictable nonsense. If a writer/director can find a way to bring some fresh blood to that lifeless corpse of a genre then I instantly become more willing to sit and watch what they try to do. Yes, I understand that What If goes in and out of those romantic comedy tropes but it is such a fresh perspective that I not for one second cared. Michael Dowse brings a fine touch to the films direction but it’s hard to ignore just how great the actors are. Nothing beats a movie that is well cast, if the casting department gets it right then the movie seems to come together and this cast is absolutely top notch. If you are trying to decide whether or not to see What If, I’d advise to go for the films fantastic dialogue but stay for Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, they alone are worth the price of admission.