When I heard that Daniel Radcliffe would be starring in a rom com alongside Zoe Kazan, I was intrigued. Having already witnessed one of my childhood idols – Emma Watson – break out of the Hermione Granger routine in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it would be interesting to see if Radcliffe could leave the Harry Potter specs behind him with What If.
What I wasn’t prepared for was this boring, cheesy and quintessentially predictable film; right down to the lines that the characters say to one another. As a med school dropout whose last girlfriend cheated on him, it is made clear from the opening seen that Daniel Radcliffe’s character is meant to evoke sympathy from the viewer. Maybe this is why his character is called Wallace. I mean how many twenty-somethings are there called Wallace, really.
Wallace’s best friend Allan is played by Adam Driver, (who you may recognise as Lena Dunham’s love interest in the HBO series Girls). There is no discernible distinction between the roles Driver plays; both characters have warped outlooks on love and relationships and are terribly poor friends at times. The relationship constructed between Driver and Mackenzie Davis’ character is uncomfortably physical, almost seeming to attempt to compensate for a lack of real depth and substance to their romance. They’re certainly not a couple I would bother staying friends with, that’s for sure. Especially not after they steal Wallace’s underwear and leave him stranded on a beach overnight as a joke.
Daniel Radcliffe comes across as Mr Nice Guy throughout – constantly berating himself for having feelings for his best friend’s cousin, Chantry (Zoe Kazan). The two meet at a house party and bond over a mutual love of fridge magnet poetry and terrible jokes. The script is contrived and we would almost be content if the film ended after Wallace lets Chantry’s number blow away in the wind after she’s told him that she has a boyfriend. A chance second meeting, where the duo bond over a lone trip to the cinema to see The Princess Bride sees the girl with a boyfriend and the emotionally vulnerable guy agree to “just be friends”. Oh I wonder what might happen…
A large segment of the film is allocated to creating a realistic friendship between the duo. A cliché changing room scene: “Don’t look” Kazan murmurs, and Daniel Radcliffe averts his gaze, ignorant to his friend’s feminine charms because they are just friends, silly…
Next cue some career related drama, which interrupts the seemingly perfect dynamic between Chantry and her boyfriend, Ben. The viewer doesn’t feel all that bothered about this development, given the director made sure we hated Ben from the outset after he demanded to know whether Wallace’s intentions involve sleeping with Chantry. That would be ridiculous, though, right guys? Wallace and Chantry are just friends.
With Ben *cough*conveniently*cough* out the way, cue more bonding time for Chantry and Wallace, more distance between Chantry and Ben and then lo and behold, a breakup that isn’t in the least bit surprising. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a rom com without a flight where the two love interests narrowly miss out on telling each other how they truly feel, would it? There’s a good helping of that, too.
“Love is just an all purpose excuse for selfish behaviour”
If you didn’t feel like that was soppy enough to your tastes, then just wait for the ending: Wallace stalks Chantry to Shanghai because he can’t possibly let her get on with her career for a year, and upon her return they get married. Because God forbid in this day and age two love interests live happily together without getting a marriage certificate to truly prove their love to the viewer.
The rhetoric the film relies on is “What If the love of your life is actually your best friend?” but the question I asked after watching the movie is “What If I hadn’t spent 91 minutes of my life watching this drivel?”
Absolutely atrocious – if only I had a timeturner I could go back to ninety one minutes ago and safe myself the bother…
Words by Beth Kirkbride