Monday, August 18, 2014

Romantic Comedy ‘What If” plays cute

Director: Michael Dowse

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, Rafe Spall, Megan Park, Jemima Rooper, Rebecca Northam

By James Colt Harrison

It’s summer and it’s time for some light and breezy romantic comedies that are as transparent as Swiss cheese. ”What If” fills the bill for lighter-than-air entertainment. Even the title was given a blast of helium when it was changed from ”The F Word” to the more bland “What If” for delicate American audiences.

When the leading man has grown up in front of our eyes as Harry Potter, debuted on the stage stripping himself of all his clothes and going bare naked in “Equus” (Best Leading Actor), we get the point that Daniel Radcliffe is now a young leading man. Well, sort of a baby version of a leading man. But cute, anyway.

Cute is necessary for this film to work. Radcliffe (Wallace) has dropped out of medical school after a bad relationship has devastated him. He has vowed not to get involved with another girl and has given up sex for the duration. His best friend Allan---the comical Adam Driver---and local sex hunk dives into a relationship with passionate Nicole (Mackenzie Davis) and marries her. It’s sort of an incentive for Wallace to get back into life again. Allan introduces Wallace to his cousin, airy Chantry (Zoe Kazan), an animator. She’s much involved with her live-in boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall).

Wallace and Chantry seem to have a lot in common and become great friends. They are funny and sweet characters and that word “cute” creeps in again. Chantry is devoted to her grounded and ambitious boyfriend Ben. But Wallace has bigger eyes for Chantry than he is willing to admit. And does she have more than friendly feelings for Wallace. They play cat and mouse emotionally and try to figure out where they stand with each other.

This is not a new situation between boy-girl relationships. There must have been a million movies before this dealing with the same dilemma. Radcliffe himself said, “In a lot of romantic comedies I think it can feel a little too easy on people’s relationships but this film accurately takes in some of the complexity of people’s relationships. And it is really, really funny.  That was the kind of main thing that drew me towards it.”

Director Dowse praised Radcliffe’s performance by saying “I think he’s totally accessible, beautifully flawed and immediately likeable as an actor, almost like a young Jack Lemmon. People inherently end up rooting for him.”

As Wallace’s best friend and room-mate Allan, Adam Driver’s comedy acting chops dominate all his scenes. Ms. Davis enthused, ”Adam Driver is so funny and wonderful in this movie and really bizarre. He’s so smart and such a good actor and it was such a wonderful experience to get to work with him and improv with him and, laugh and have him make me laugh all the time.”

The major portion of the film was shot in Toronto. Not usually known as a “romantic” city such as Venice or Paris, the crew used the water settings to great advantage. One of the funniest scenes in the film is a night-time skinny dipping at the beach. And, necessary to the story line, the cast and crew had to go to Dublin, Ireland for some scenes to wrap up the movie. It opens the film up visually and gives it the correct brightness for the overall look.

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