Friday, August 22, 2014

Movie Review: ‘What If’

**** 1/2 out of 5
98 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, including references throughout, partial nudity and language
CBS Films

Article first published as Movie Review: ‘What If’ (2014) on Blogcritics.

A note to the MPAA — who decided a title change was in for the U.S. distribution of the The F Word after its premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival — how is The F Word any worse than Meet the Fockers or Little Fockers? Apparently it’s okay to imply foul language in a big studio movie, but not independently. Thankfully, the film in question—now titled What If — will hopefully generate enough word-of-mouth buzz to help audiences find out that this is the best romantic-comedy since (500) Days of Summer.

What If, Danielle Radcliffe, Zoe KazanRemember that part in I Love You, Man when Paul Rudd says, “God I love that movie” in reference to The Devil Wears Prada? You’ll feel the same way walking out of the summer’s biggest surprise you probably haven’t heard of. Featuring two fantastic leads in Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, this is the date movie of the year so far.

Still suffering from his breakup over a year ago, Wallace (Radcliffe) meets Chantry (Kazan), the cousin of his best friend and college roommate Allan (Adam Driver) at a party. Wallace and Chantry hit it off right away. Wallace offers to walk Chantry home where she gives him her number, but makes sure he knows she has a boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall), and they can only be friends. Wallace accepts the challenge and the two spend a lot of time emailing back and forth when they’re not spending all their free time together.

Eventually, Chantry invites Wallace to have dinner with her, Ben, and her sister Dalia (Megan Park). As time passes, Ben gets called off to Dublin for work, leaving Chantry in Toronto to figure out her feelings about her relationship with Ben, and friendship with Wallace. Meanwhile, Wallace has to decide if he’s going to be stuck in the friend zone forever or make his move.

What If, Danielle Radcliffe, Zoe KazanWhat If has a lot to say about relationships and Elan Mastai’s screenplay wrings the truth out of every scenario. Even about relationships that start “dirty.” Sometimes you just can’t help it. Mastai has crafted one of the wittiest rom-com’s in years adapting T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi’s play, Toothpaste and Cigars. It’s PG-13 without being dumbed down and raunchy without being gross. It helps that the cast actually act like they’re all best friends and have great rapport. Radcliffe and Kazan have chemistry to spare with Radcliffe in particular completely shedding his Harry Potter shtick.

What If is just the kick in the ass the genre has needed, and it’s a shame that there’s not a whole lot of advertising going around because it’s going to only help the film wind up being one 2014’s best film’s you didn’t see. Director Michael Dowse keeps the film moving and there’s never a wrong turn emotionally. It’s always funny and earns its moments of sap. It’s also about time we had a couple to root for in one of these kinds of films. Do yourself a favor and seek out What If; it’s a charming and delightful film; that says a lot coming from a guy. I don’t mind these kinds of films when done right, and this is one of the best.

Photos courtesy CBS Films

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