Turns out you can still make a good romantic comedy.
“What if” stars Danielle Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as twenty somethings who navigate the relational waters of what it means to have a best friend of the opposite gender. He’s been burned by relationships his whole life and she’s committed to her long term boyfriend. But what if their chemistry and friendship might be leading somewhere deeper? What if, indeed. OK, let’s get into it, time for me to expose my soft rom com loving heart, I really kinda dug this movie.
First of all Radcliffe and Kazan are absolutely great together. You never for a second doubt that these two would have such a great friendship and chemistry together as a pair. Radcliffe especially is doing some great work showing that he’s more than just the boy from Hogwarts giving a truly nuanced and emotional turn as this guy trying to do the right thing but not sure exactly what it is. Plus there are some great performances around him, Adam Driver specifically, who you may know from the TV show Girls, or will know as one of the guys in the upcoming Star Wars reboot. His turn as the matter of fact friend, finding his way through his own relationship is engaging and fun as well. I mean, really, it’s just a well made film. The music seems perfect, the plot moves quickly and has purpose, and we genuinely buy into the world and these characters. But the best thing about “What if” has to be the writing. The banter in this is downright fun. It’s intelligent and witty, playful and warm, and constantly good for a thought provoking turn of phrase or playful romp of ideas. Which gives the whole endeavor a feeling of fun and interest it otherwise might be missing.
And that’s really my only complaint about What if. Underneath the clever script and great performances it’s a pretty basic story without much new ground to cover. Of course I feel like a lot of that is just the burden of just being a romantic comedy, where the will they or won’t they, gee I hope they do, OH NO COMPLICATIONS plotline seems to always drive the story. Certainly there must be new ways of telling that story but not here, where they seem content to let the actors and writing carry the weight of the film. As good as those things were it would have been nice to see a movie that actually did something new with the formula that could have taken it to the next level.
At the end of the day, What if is a wonderfully written and executed Rom Com with great chemistry and performances from its leads and some really fun conversations. Even it’s cookie cutter approach to the same old rom com cliches only dips its down, for me, to a B+