By Kim Hume
I sat down to watch ‘What If’ with low expectations, ready for a 500 Days of Summer-esque, typically quirky romantic comedy with the added touch of Daniel Radcliffe probably failing to break from his typecast of Harry Potter. Admittedly, I am a fan of the quirky independent film genre and was pleasantly surprised with what I would conclude is a zany, while a little unoriginal, enjoyable film.
‘What If’follows Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), a twenty-something year-old med school dropout who has had enough of his many failed relationships and decides to put his love life on hold for a while. At a party he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), the kooky female lead who lives with her long term boyfriend. Chantry and Wallace have an immediate connection and a budding friendship ensues. Of course, to make the story interesting, Wallace starts to have obvious feelings for Chantry but hides it through his cynical approach to relationships. When Chantry’s boyfriend is transferred from Toronto to Dublin for work, Wallace, quite unexpectedly, doesn’t immediately take the opportunity to make his move, enhancing the idea of him being stuck in the ‘friendzone’. The viewer can’t help but start to root for Wallace and Chantry and their improbable relationship, despite everything working against them.
The film explores the age old question: can a boy and girl stay just friends? It may do so using an unremarkable and fairly overused storyline, however it is executed in a fresh way and doesn’t lose the viewer’s attention. Daniel Radcliffe brings a new charm to the film that has been lost in the more popular choices for lead male roles. His naive and simple approach to the role is relatable and he embraces the contemporary feel of the film. Wallace himself is witty and humorous at times, but for the most part is disappointingly boring. The humour aspect of the film is saved by Wallace’s best friend, Allan (Adam Driver), who is the typical irresponsible, careless player who does his best to convince Wallace that he doesn’t need someone to be with for the time being. Zoe Kazan is also a refreshing new face in the indie film genre, and plays the role with a perfect balance of humour and ‘laid-backness’.
Ultimately, ‘What If’is a cute, quirky film filled with hipster cardigans and antique shops. It’s one to watch if you’re a fan of the indie genre, but those looking for a Hugh Grant type, laughter filled romantic comedy might want to give this one a miss. It’s slow, it’s droll, but it’s a laid-back, chilled watch that doesn’t require much focus or thought. Daniel Radcliffe does a surprisingly good job playing the heartbroken cynic, and Zoe Kazan could be second to Zooey Deschanel in playing the quirky and kooky female lead. Definitely one to buy on DVD if it’s a Sunday afternoon and you’re in the mood for an easygoing film, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking or memorable.