Take a Drink: for each cynical line about love
Take a Drink: for each romantic comedy cliche
Take a Drink: during each awkward scene
Do a Shot: for Fool’s Gold bread
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
It’s sad to say this, but the romantic comedy genre at this point seems dead. While there are a lot of people against romantic comedies, saying they are a cynical cash grab, I miss seeing films released in the genre. Sure, there were a fair share of duds, but there are few more charming aspects of cinema then seeing two people just hit it off on screen so well. Recent romantic comedies such as Love and Other Drugs, The Five-Year Engagement, and Crazy, Stupid, Love are full proof of that.
With many begging to look down on the romantic comedy genre, there has been quite a few films that have tried to be both a romantic comedy and a skewering of the genre at the same time. This trend seemingly started when 500 Days with Summer’s clever twist on the romantic comedy genre was widely beloved. Other films such as Friends with Benefits and That Awkward Moment have tried a similar approach, and both missed the boat entirely. The latest romantic comedy, What If, sadly falls in the latter category.
What If follows Wallace, who is burned out from dating after several failed relationships. This is until he meets Chantry, an eccentric girl who instantly has a connection with Wallace. The catch, she has a boyfriend. Can the two just be friends?
The performances are quite good, with there especially being a few standouts. Zoe Kazan, who shined previously in Ruby Sparks and The Pretty One, is just so charming. She makes everything looks so effortless, and it’s easy to see how Wallace falls for her so easily. Kazan is the perfect new-age romantic comedy star, with her quirky personality fitting quite well with how the genre has changed over the years. Hopefully soon she stars in bigger films.
Stealing the show here, though, are Adam Driver and Megan Park, who are friends of Wallace who happen to be dating. Both Driver and Park together have such great chemistry, and every scene they are in is instantly improved. Their chemistry alone produces some of the biggest laughs, and seeing their relationship progress throughout the film is certainly the most intresting aspect of the film itself. Makes me wish the film was centered around this duo instead, as their dynamic is rather unique.
Considering the cast, it’s not a surprise that there are a fair share of funny moments here. Driver, Park, and Kazan produces some solid laughs off their good-nature and charm alone, and there are a couple of quirky bits that are charming. Conversations about Fool’s Gold bread are the kind of random conversations people have with each other, and are realistic and fun.
While the cast is able to produce some laughs, the script fails to do so. Written by Elan Mastai, who is most known for writing the script to the dreadful Uwe Boll flick Alone in the Dark, the script seems to be at the center of most of this film’s problems. The script tries to be funny but has a lot of awkward slapstick comedy bits, and they feel misplaced here. Moments like these work in a hard-R comedy like American Pie, but in a tame PG-13 comedy these moments don’t go far enough to produce laughs.
Like a lot of romantic comedies, What If addresses love and its other themes at a very base level. One of the big selling points about the movie is how it tackles “the friend zone”, which is why the film is cleverly titled The F Word in Canada. However, the film hides from ever seriously addressing that issue, aside from a few conversations in the beginning of the film. Not only are the themes very basic, but so are the characters, who have no true depth outside of cliched personality tics.
In almost every movie he is in, Daniel Radcliffe shines and is very likable, which is why it’s shocking here that he is so unlikable in his leading role. I can’t quite say it’s Radcliffe’s fault, who has shined in every other film he has been in, but rather the script, which paints a very whiny, passive-aggressive guy. When the film reaches its conflict heading towards the third act, the film tries to show off Wallace’s perspective, but most of what he complains about felt completely selfish and self-centered, which makes the final result of the film dissatisfying.
What If, despite at times trying to seem smarter than the average romantic comedy, falls into the same boat that most romantic comedies fall in. The plot ends up going in the same direction that most romantic comedies do, with the same sort of cliches that resolve them. This is a shame, as the film has moments where it seems like it could rise above such cliches.
What most lost me about What If is that it cops out of what it was trying to be originally. A movie about a guy and a girl who develop a friendship is inherently interesting, as there do not seem to be enough movies about people connecting but not ending up together in a relationship. However, the film goes out of its way to make this a romantic comedy, making Chantry’s previously likable boyfriend a dick within one scene. The film did not have the stones to follow through on its more unique premise, which made the two ending up together feel very dishonest.
What If has its fair share of funny moments and clever characters, but mainly left me asking, “what if this film stuck to the merits of its premise and tried something more out of the box?” Instead, it’s a by the numbers romantic comedy that some people may be able to enjoy, but does not differentiate itself from other similar rom coms enough to stand out.