Cert: 15 / 102 mins / Dir. Michael Dowse
Imagine, if you will, a film with the zany kookiness of Zoe Kazan's very own Ruby Sparks, the smug tweeness of Richard Curtis' About Time and the beautifully inappropriate supporting characters of Kevin Smith's Mallrats. Imagine how, even though those are three fantastic films there, it'd be difficult to mesh those sensibilities together convincingly. Imagine how painstaking it would be to cast well, how tricky it would be to script, and how delicately it would have to be directed.
And keep imagining it, because that film hasn't been perfected yet.
Michael Dowse's vision of Elan Mastai's screenplay is an ungainly beast, trying to cover too many target-demographics at once and lurching all over the place as a result. It's not a film without any warmth or charm, but much like my fourth-year school timetable, the leading couple have absolutely no chemistry.
Zoe Kazan is great value as the other-worldly Chantry, a hipster animator living and working in Toronto, but Daniel Radcliffe fails to convince as her would-be suitor Wallace, and seems to be channelling the bumbling awkwardness of Hugh Grant, but with more bumbling and total awkwardness. Which is bizarre in and of itself, as the film's end-credits feature a series of Instagram-style photos of the pair taken during the making of the film, and they look like they're having a great time; if only that intensity had translated into their performances. Radcliffe seems completely ill-at-ease in the romantic comedy genre, and I don't think that's just his characterisation, sadly. Despite Kazan's best efforts, you get the feeling that these two are will only end up together by default, rather than design.
Elsewhere, Rafe Spall's character of 'A-hole Boyfriend™' is all over the shop; as inconsistent as his transatlantic accent. Also falling into this rut is Adam Driver as 'Best Buddy, With Hopeless Advice™', who spends equal amounts of time supporting and abusing his friend, Wallace. Chantry's sister, Dalia seems to have been drafted in from some chick-flick (as do the rest of her kooky friends who have their personalities summarised by the glasses they wear), and there's a cul-de-sac of a sub-plot with Wallace's sister, Ellie, a single-mum who appears for two scenes as if she's been written in more.
But despite my grumbling, What If isn't a total misfire, it's just nowhere near as captivating and heart-warming as it thinks it is. There's a very good film in there somewhere, but it's weighed down by all the baggage it's carrying.
Well, the trailer's as laboured and awkward as the film, so…
It'd make a good date-movie, and it's far less demanding than it thinks it is.
At some point, but it'll be for Kazan, not Radcliffe.
It's easy for me to pick apart Radcliffe's unsuitability for this role (really, it is), but who'd have made a better leading man?
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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