REVIEW: Radcliffe expands range

Contributed Photo
The famous star of the Harry Potter franchise is now the protagonist of this romantic comedy. Radcliffe did a great job and the onscreen chemistry was especially great.
'What If' your typical rom-com

By Jon Haag  
Contributing Writer/Spectator

“What If” stars post-Potter Daniel Radcliffe as a cynical 20-something down on his dating life. Radcliffe plays Wallace, a medical school dropout living in Toronto and struggling to get over his ex-girlfriend.

In the first few minutes, the audience sees Wallace delete an old voicemail from her, apparently giving up on his love life.

It’s by coincidence that he meets Chantry, played by Zoe Kadan, at a friend’s party and they hit it off.

What follows is the next movie in a long, long line of quirky romantic comedies that were no doubt influenced by the box-office draw of Judd Apatow’s comedic ventures.

This does not mean “What If” fails as a movie, simply that it doesn’t necessarily seek to break genre boundaries or transcend them.

Many have speculated that Radcliffe would not have a career past his decade long stint as “The Boy Who Lived,” but his performance in “What If” is well played.

He manages to shed the Harry Potter persona and come into his own in the movie, playing a believable, slightly awkward young man who is falling in love with his best friend. Kadan fits the part of Chantry well, slightly quirky in her mannerisms and perhaps a bit overstated in her acting, but the onscreen chemistry works well.

Wallace’s best friend, and Chantry’s cousin, may be the best part of the movie, along with his dark, cynical girlfriend.

Played by Adam Driver and MacKenzie Davis respectively, they are responsible for most of the comedic element of the movie, including a humorous scene where they are telling the other various ways in which they dismember them in between declarations of love.

Radcliffe manages his role well, and so do the others, but only time will tell if the Potter star can manage to continue, and perhaps improve, a career after an eight movie franchise.

On a side note, it appears the writer or director has an apparent affinity to moodily sitting on roofs. 

And while the film succeeds, in other areas it falls short. The nearly 100 minute runtime does nothing to help the formulaic script.

Despite the chemistry between the actors, it does nothing to subvert the genre norms. Girl with an disrespectful boyfriend, lonely awkward guy; it’s the exact same romantic comedy audiences have been watching for a decade.

It may be a bit dressed up and modernized, but so were all of the Judd Apatow features before it.

You can buy the rights to a bunch of indie hits and make a bunch of pop culture references to Elvis’ death, but that will only get you so far in making a standout film.

There’s the happy, joyous moments shared between the potential couple, there’s the best friend giving advice, and of course, there’s the mid-plot confession that results in a meltdown between the main characters. There are hundreds of these movies, and while “What If” plays the role well, the film never manages to evade the clichés and tropes of the genre and become a truly memorable movie.

In all likelihood, audiences will keep coming to these romantic comedies, especially ones as well made, although formulaic, as “What If.”

Yes, it’s the same movie you have seen before, and one look at a synopsis will probably tell you exactly what to expect from the ending, but it’s heartfelt, witty, and charming.

Jon Haag is the contributing writer for The Spectator. He can be reached by ae.spectator@gmail.com