A Rom-Com worth its while

%22What+If%22+shows+the+eclectic+romance+between+Wallace+and+Chantry%2C+without+devolving+into+a+mushy+mess.

Courtesy IMDB

“What If” shows the eclectic romance between Wallace and Chantry, without devolving into a mushy mess.

I have a small secret: I’m a huge sucker for romantic comedies. From “Annie Hall” and “When Harry Met Sally” to “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “Pretty Woman,” I’ve always found myself so engrossed and unabashedly situated in a perpetual state of “can’t even” by stories that outright seek to deviate from the cliché meet-cute. It should come as no surprise that I am disappointed to witness the genre carrying a universal stigma of plotless narrative filled with superficial characters, all due to rehashings of a formula tried-and-true.

Enter, “What if”, Michael Dowse’s latest release, which, while not a revolutionary in the field, manages to transduce a smart, self-aware script into a cutesy cinematic more than capable of avoiding the pitfalls of its rom-com blueprint. From the combination of instant chemical overflow of tag-team duo Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan to the rising detestability and raunchy humor of Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, “What If” circumvents its fun albeit predictable story. The film manages, instead, to succeed in the greatest accomplishment of all: making viewers yearn for the characters to get together for viable reasons other than the need to wrap up the third act.

The film follows Wallace (Radcliffe), a jaded medical school dropout, who quickly finds himself in an awkward position with his best friend’s cousin, the adorkable animator Chantry (Zoe Kazan). Soon finding his instant connection blocked from further romantic development by Chantry’s long-term boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall), Wallace decides to maintain a strictly platonic relationship, a cause he believes can answer the age-old question of whether men and women can only be just friends.

It must be difficult for Radcliffe to develop his reputation after his iconic status as THE childhood actor in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” franchise; however, in combination with his recent works—think “The Woman in Black” and musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”—he has demonstrated quite a fantastic range that is deserving of a blank slate. Radcliffe shines tremendously by providing a refreshingly honest and relatable character that produces an impossibly adorable pair with fellow lead Kazan, who through Chantry makes the word “unconventional” as endearing as the queen of quirky herself, Zooey Deschanel.

Let me conclude with an obvious observation: “What if” does not escape the stereotypical tropes. There are still comical misunderstandings and extravagant romantic gestures that are both successful and unsuccessful. However, it finds no need to do so. It’s charming. It’s irresistible. It’s without question, worth its while.

Film: “What If”
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan
Rating: ★★★★☆