Movie genres stereotypically appeal to specific sexes. Big action movies are typically targeted toward a male audience, while romantic comedies are generally geared toward a female audience. However, there are some movies that bridge the gap between male and female audiences to offer a little something for everyone. What If is one of those movies. It’s a romantic comedy through and through, but it’s extremely relatable for both male and female movie-goers.
The movie stars Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace, Adam Driver as Wallace’s old college roommate Allan, and Zoe Kazan as Allan’s cousin Chantry. All three deliver very respectable performances, although Driver’s character is very similar to the character he plays on the HBO show Girls, so the role wasn’t much of a stretch for him (although he is one of the stand out performers in Girls and What If). If this is your first time seeing Radcliffe outside of the Harry Potter films, you will see a very different side of him here. There are a few traits from Harry in the character, but this doesn’t feel like Harry Potter playing Wallace, it feels like a completely different character, which is a good thing.
What If is a fairly typical relationship tale. Wallace meets Chantry > Wallace likes Chantry > Chantry has a boyfriend > Wallace becomes Chantry’s best friend while secretly maintaining hope that she will one day be single. For the first 75 minutes of this 102 minute film, you can relate to pretty much everything that’s going on. Wallace may be a little nicer than you would be in a similar situation, or you may be more up front about your feelings, but for the most part you’re right there nodding your head as Wallace and Chantry develop their relationship.
There are a few ancillary characters that really have no purpose in the film. Rafe Spall plays Ben, Chantry’s boyfriend, and is the most integrated secondary character. He has a few choice moments early in the film during his initial interactions with Wallace, but for the most part he’s a background plot device. Jemima Rooper plays Wallace’s sister Ellie, while Lucius Hoyos plays her son Felix. Wallace lives in their attic and has some great interactions with them early in the film, but then they both seemingly fade away. You see them once or twice again, but the scenes are virtually meaningless. It’s almost as if the writer had one great idea for them and then completely forgot they existed.
Unfortunately, when you get to the third act, things start to fall apart. The climax of the film causes a swift and brutal change. Oddly enough, most males will likely side with Wallace during this period, while most females will side with Chantry. No matter who you side with, the rhythm of the movie feels off after this interaction occurs. This is also the first time in the movie where you can break it down and things really don’t make sense. Most movies are an escape from reality, but What If is fairly believable up until this point.
After the big climax, the film stalls for a moment, then tries to pick up where it left off, only it never quite finds that same great pacing and energy it once had. There are no surprises throughout the film, but it does have a few moments that should make you smile. It’s not the best romantic comedy, but it does feel like one of the most realistic (while still being a movie). Aside from poor use of some of the secondary characters, and a lackluster final act, What If is a solid film.
What If:[usr 3.5]
About What If
Synopsis: Wallace, who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry, who lives with her longtime boyfriend. Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life.
Director: Michael Dowse
Writers: Elan Mastai, T.J. Dawe
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park
Runtime: 102 Minutes