What if (movie review)
Watch the trailer if you will, but be it known that is an AWFUL representation of What If and the complex issues it represents. Or, this ain’t yo mama’s RomCom.
I’m not sure why this movie is called What If; you could argue it’s to mean, “What if she didn’t have a boyfriend?” or “What if we were together?” but to me, a better title would have been Pining or Death by Friendzone or… I dunno. The movie doesn’t explore a What If scenario; it’s very much “Here’s the situation; here’s how it changes and how it makes people feel over time.”
And, just so my argument is not immediately dismissed, the movie was originally released as The F Word and is based on the play with a title that I cannot begin to fathom, Toothpaste and Cigars. (Presumably, the scenes that make such a title relevant were cut from the film version.)
For the most part, I thought What If was an excellent RomCom (or perhaps Dramedy). It had excellent depth/scope/whatever you want to call it as well as performances from characters that had more nuance than you have come to expect from these sort of flicks over the last decade or so. Daniel Radcliffe (who has been carrying movies since before he had hair on his schmeckle) is so good in this that I can’t wait to see what he does next. Radcliffe has, for me, become a seat filler actor – as in, “I’ll fill a seat at his movies because I just want to watch Daniel Radcliffe.” It’s a rare thing and I’m excited to watch what he does in the years to come.
Oh, and a quick word for Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver. Kazan plays opposite Radcliffe beautifully but really owns the scenes with a quiet power even when Radcliffe is on-screen at the same time, which is no easy feat. Driver does not have the easiest of jobs as his character doesn’t have the same dimension as the other leads, but he makes it work.
I’d also like to drop some kudos to the writers for not making Kazan’s character a manic pixie dream girl; Radcliffe plays a med school dropout who’s down on his luck, so it would have been easy to make Kazan’s character “just the girl to shake him out of his funk!” Thankfully, they didn’t, and the movie is sooo much better for it.
On the downside, while there is great production design, there’s nothing special happening with the camera. Not that we need that sort of thing in a flick like this, but they clearly had a decent budget for this flick, but it certainly didn’t go to storyboarding. There’s also the cartoon stuff… I didn’t see that coming – I know she’s an artist/animator, but I’m not sure we need this – and the “serious relationship pop-up windows” also didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie – they just sort of pop-up out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. This movie is a comedy or perhaps a drama with a lot of comedic elements, but some of this sort of stuff just didn’t fit the tone. I also thought the movie picked a safe ending, bringing it full circle with the roof and the cell phone and what not… When I was watching this movie, I didn’t think we were headed to this ending at all and now that I’ve had time to reflect, I still feel this ending, while satisfying, was yet another unexpected jump in tone that didn’t fit the movie as a whole.
What If certainly has more good than bad and I enjoyed it more than I let on. It’s a quality film and I imagine we’ll watch it again some day in the future. I’m giving it an 8 out of 10.
Posted on February 2, 2015, in movie review and tagged Adam Driver, Daniel Radcliffe, Dramedy, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, movie review, movies, romantic comedy, romcom, The F Word, Toothpaste and Cigars, What If, Zoe Kazan. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.