The formula for an adequate romantic comedy is debatable.
The concoction usually ranges between the Age of the Romantics to the modern, cleverly quipped, scavenger hunt filled with robust musicals and whimsical characters – you know the ones that get themselves into trouble knowingly and find pleasure wriggling themselves out of it. The tagline for the latter being: ‘Love is a series of encounters. Some are fulfilling, others are horrendously memorable. Either way, marriage is inevitable’. In “What If”, director Michael Dowse borders on a formula that is sufficient but all the while thrillingly nauseating.
The film, previously known as “The F-Word”, finds former medical student Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) attempting to recover from a pitiful break – up. He buries himself in an opportunity for distraction by attending his college roommate’s (Adam Driver) house party. There, he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) wandering in the kitchen desperate to engage in human interaction beyond bodies filled with tequila and past mistakes. Social promiscuity erupts as they soon realize that they have much more in common than they imagined. Life, for Wallace, seemed fair …until he discovers that Chantry already has a boyfriend. As the film progresses, we watch as Wallace tries to stay within the paradigms of their friendship even though he viciously yearns for something more.
Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, and Mackenzie Davis, compile the double dating cast of characters in this charming love story. Elan Mastai writes an eloquent screenplay chock full of witty sarcasm and proverbial anecdotes for the forlorn lover. His script makes Wallace’s uniqueness pleasant and rightfully entertaining as he mumbles random words and phrases together in an effort to make conversation in the most awkward of circumstances. Nonetheless, Rogier Stoffers cinematography is undoubtedly the most fascinating aspect of this film. The City of Toronto not only serves as a backdrop but as an instigator for hope when several characters profess their love to the other from within its nooks and crannies. The city’s beacon hardly serves a landmark as characters prance around the city perusing through parks and cafe’s and local treasury known only to Torontonians themselves.
“What If’ is a film that offers its characters the chance to go beyond.”
Wallace constantly challenges opposing ideas and obstacles adamant that there is always something more – thoroughly engaged in the prospect of his present and his inadvertent future. Chantry however, is equally will-full, refusing to consign to her feelings for Wallace because she wants to prove the inevitable: that women and men can remain friends without the benefits of an intimate relationship. Of course, that theory is juxtaposed with Allan and Nicole who completely dismiss Chantry’s ideals by diving mouth first into each other’s cavities moments after their introduction. The friction then questions whether or not women and men can reciprocate socially without intimacy or is love ideal when intimacy is the catalyst?
Unlike today’s rom – coms, “What If” challenges its audience to remember the formula’s basic ingredients: add two people, a dash of love, divide them by misaligned principles, multiply that by soulful regrets and this could equal marriage or destruction – then abandon it. This film reminds us that the formula remains the same but the method always changes and in “What If”, the synthesis is worth the wait.