If you’re anything like me, you like to find a balance of Blockbusters and Indies that satisfy your movie needs. For me, my taste in independent films ranges from arthouse to a passion project. I find that most big celebrities do some of their best work in smaller films and their performances seem a lot more genuine. There are also those celebrities that fly under the radar and turn out amazing performance after another in cute, quirky little films that not enough people see. If you like love, quirkiness, Harry Potter, and comedy, then have I got a film for you!
In the world where love can be beautiful and awful at the same time, things are just not going the right way for Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe). As he stares off into the city lights, he replays a message from his ex-girlfriend, who asks him to take her back after having cheated on him. Wallace, who lives in his sister (Jemima Rooper)’s attic, manages to get out of the house one night and goes to a party with his best friend, Allan (Adam Driver). Once there, he encounters an exquisitely quirky and beautiful young woman named Chantry (Zoe Kazan). After a wonderful conversation, Wallace walks her home and asks to see her again, only to find out that she has a boyfriend.
Chantry, clearly looking for a friend, asks Wallace to be just that and he agrees, despite having some attraction for this wondrous young lady. While Wallace spends his life making manuals, Chantry works as an animator and spends time with her boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall). Wallace and Chantry spend a lot of time together, as friends do, and they can’t help but get a bit flirty now and then. On Wallace’s side, Allan and his equally crazy new girlfriend, Nicole (Mckenzie Davis), think he should tell her how he feels, or not do it at all. On Chantry’s side, Ben is fine with Wallace as long as he keeps his distance and her sister Dalia (Megan Park) is interested in him. They’re both just friends, right?
What If plays with your typical romantic comedies and defies some of the standards that you’d think that they would uphold. The scenarios are humorous, the conversations feel real, and the actors/actresses certainly sell their characters. There’s a lot of laughter to be had and you’ll maybe even find some of yourself within these characters, or the trials that they go through.
Zoe Kazan is a wonder to behold, as her mere presence lights of the screen and her charm pops out and mesmerizes you. While under her spell, you find yourself comparing her quirky character to someone that you know and you can’t help but smile when she makes a fool or herself, or when she starts her witty banter with Radcliffe, who also finds him self excelling in this role. He’s a bit stiff at first, but as he eases into his lax role and odd conversations, he grows more familiar and a lot more likable.
Adam Driver is becoming more of a film actor, as he ventures away from his role on Girls and finds success in the world of Hollywood. He’s such an oddly lovable guy and you never really know just what will come out of his mouth. He steals all the scenes that he’s in with his relentless vulgar humor and uncensored way with words. Mackenzie Davis is also incredibly funny, as she too has no filter and works marvelously with Driver. Rafe Spall and Megan Park don’t get too much to do, but they’re both convincingly effective in their smaller roles, allowing Kazan and Radcliffe to work off of them.
The concept of friendships and relationships has been played around with before and people who are dating, that have friends, is nothing new. This film’s premise isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it plays off of the predispositions we have about our significant others having friends of the opposite sex and it explores how difficult that can be. Fortunately, this film does avoid a lot of major cliches (though it still has a few) and it spends more time on the little moments within friendships and how each person perceives them. The idea of what love is gets toyed around in a semi-familiar fashion, but it’s much more funny hearing it from Adam Driver and seeing Kazan and Radcliffe getting emotional with it.
Being an independent film, this film does take some more artistic risks that don’t always play off. Kazan plays an animator whom is always drawing cartoons and sometimes, those drawings take flight and move around the film. It was a bit too artsy for my taste, but it also wasn’t really explained all that well either. There’s a deeper meaning to it, but we don’t get too much information as to why it means so much to her. I also felt like Jemima Rooper was heavily underused, as she’s Radcliffe’s sister, yet he never consults her on things she could help with. There are some cliches here and there and Radcliffe is somewhat stiff in the beginning, but there’s not enough wrong to detract you from all that is right.
What If doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does a delightful job of finding a new way to tell a more relevant story. Love is a fickle subject that often gets treated with too much care and here, they play around with it, compare it to crap, and have fun redefining it. The film also doesn’t revert to tired tropes that you’ll find in your formulaic indie rom/com, so I was pleasantly surprised after the film ended. There aren’t any bad performances and Kazan shines brightly as she leads this wonderful little film to victory.
What If Trailer