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.