With an empty, regurgitated plot comes an empty, regurgitated film. Focusing on the theme that saturates the contemporary romantic comedies of today (whether or not a male and female can just be friends), What If struggles in between a tame clone of what has already been done and a film that desperately tries to stay away from it.
The film has very minimal amounts of differentiation, using everything we have witnessed (and laughed at) before in comedy, from streaking and clothes going missing to drunken dancing at a wedding, but with little extra spice and, instead, a strict following of an established recipe. The diversification that it does attempt to achieve doesn’t come naturally, but in desperate and embarrassing pleas. To clarify, characters having names such as Wallace, Chantry, Dalia and Allan (please note the idiosyncratic two ‘l’s) does not make an innovative film abandoning the clichés, but is merely a display of a film that desperately tries to stress how unique it is when, realistically, it is only a meek sheep.
This is not to say that What If is universally bland; there are some genuinely amusing parts to the film. As well as this, the lead performances are pleasing. Daniel Radcliffe, portraying the single, lost and cynical Wallace, does relatively well in his role, with Zoe Kazan as Chantry the particular standout. Characterised by a mellow sweetness, Kazan has an amusing edge to her and captures the confusion the film aims for idealistically. As well as this, the character of Chantry avoids the fate of many female characters elsewhere in romantic comedies and actually ends up choosing what she desires career-wise without a romance dissuading her from it.
Elsewhere, however, performances and characters are nothing more than flaky. Adam Driver, portraying Wallace’s closest friend, takes Girls’ Adam and essentially portrays the exact same character in the film. As well as this, Rafe Spall co-stars as Ben, the partner of Chantry, who is an inconsistent character, sometimes coming across as conventional but sometimes as wacky and insecure to then suddenly becoming a violent character; he is an illogical persona with no actual thought put into him, but merely used to the film’s disposal as to whatever is desired at the time, whether it be a source of humour or an obstacle to the narrative. Apart from the central two characters, all the other characters lack any kind of depth, reality and are essentially absent puppets.
The film is erratic and attempts to travel to lots of places but lands at none. The connection between audience and character is weak and fragile and there is nothing to sink your teeth into. This is not to mention its hideous heterosexualisation, embedded so firmly within the film’s concept as well as the screenplay. Unfortunately, What If is forgettable and is likely to become lost in an oblivion of ‘just another one of those romantic comedies’.
What If (2014), directed Michael Dowse, is distributed by Entertainment One, Certificate 15. Watch the trailer below:
This review is published in association with The National Student.