“What If” Romance with a Twist (Film Review)

WHAT IF poster

Light and fun, the movie What If  opens in theaters as a whimsical tale of romance with comedy.  The theme has been used many times over the years, but this fresh new look at Daniel Radcliffe with Zoe Kazan is a reason to see the plot once more. Its Harry Potter meets Ruby Sparks and the chemistry between the two actors in What If  is off the chart. The film targets ladies that are on the prowl and budding couples that are looking for a good date night.

The story centers on Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) a nice guy who’s looking for someone to release him from his humdrum life.  On one occasion at a party thrown by his best friend Allan (Adam Driver) he gets introduced to Chantry (Zoe Kazan) a young woman who’s alluring to Wallace and he’s smitten by her engaging personality.  On a walk to her apartment following the party he finds that Chantry is in a long term relationship with Ben (Rafe Spall), but she’s openly good with friendship between them.

Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) meet at a party

Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) meet at a party

It’s not long after when the two meet outside a movie theater and strike up a conversation that furthers their bond of friendship.  Chantry invites Wallace for an introduction to Ben at her apartment and her flighty sister Dalia (Megan Park) happens to be visiting as well.  Dalia likes what she sees and makes a play for Wallace who overcomes the embarrassing situation.

Wallace keeps his friendship going, but finds he’s sinking deep into something he may regret.  When Ben has to leave the country for his job for a long period, things start to get more relaxed between Wallace and Chantry, or so it seems.  Director Michael Dowse lets his actors, who have a lot of chemistry together, tell his story.  You can see the romance develop and the feelings between the two growing with each scene.

Megan Park as Dalia in WHAT IF

Megan Park as Dalia in WHAT IF

While Dowse has a good thing going, it may be just a little too uncomplicated and the film becomes more sappy than realistic. Don’t get me wrong, I found myself fighting off the obvious and predictability because I wanted the two star crossed lovers to get together.  Radcliffe and Kazan are that perfect couple you root for on the screen, no matter who the characters they’re playing on the screen. The film takes some twists and turns to get it back to reality, but sadly not enough to win me over.

It’s clearly a breakout role for Radcliffe showing that he’s grown out of the Harry Potter cocoon that has dominated his film career all those years.  Here he’s this lovable guy who can’t find the right person for a committed relationship until he meets someone who’s already taken. He reminds me a little of Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, but not snappy funny, just naïve funny.  Producers need to swoop him up quickly for more romantic roles not things like Igor in Frankenstein or a horrible horror flick like The Woman in Black.

Wallace and Chantry chat over coffee

Wallace and Chantry chat over coffee

As for Zoe Kazan, she does a very good job here of transferring from committed to doubtful in What If showing she does have range in ability to create a realistic character.  A walk in the park as Ruby Sparks a role she wrote for herself, here she had to become a chameleon, changing her personality and “mind” often enough to give a believable performance, and she does.  I like Zoe, she’s fresh, vibrant and can show her comedic side. I don’t know how real it was between her and Radcliffe, but they make a great couple on the screen.

What If has been rated PG-13 for sexual content, including references throughout, partial nudity and language. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature adolescents see the film as it does have some scenes that are inappropriate.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A well acted date film, but make sure you buy her dinner first. (B-)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park, Rafe Spall, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis
Directed by: Michael Dowse
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, including references throughout, partial nudity and language
Running Time: 1 hr 42 min
Release Date: August 15, 2014
Distributed by: CBS Films

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