It is amazing just how deeply independent romantic comedies have gone. Instead of having the yearly Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com, it has turned into this smaller scale, more intimate genre and I love it. The films keep the same sincerity and strong characters that made films like When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle staples of the genre, but merge them into a more modern format with the new crop of love interests including Greta Gerwig, Zooey Deschanel, and most likely one of the stars of What If, Zoe Kazan.
Kazan stars alongside Daniel Radcliffe in What If, a rom-com that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but takes the basic concept and injects a little life into the script for these talented performers. The film follows the story of Wallace (Radcliffe), a guy who is down on love before he meets Chantry (Kazan). The problem is Chantry is dating Ben (Rafe Spall) who is an extremely successful United Nations adviser.
While it all sounds so cliche and overdone (I mean come on, Chantry?), what works for What If is the script and the enlivened performances by Radcliffe, Kazan, and the scene-stealing supporting work of Adam Driver. Radcliffe continues to ditch the Potter image and craft a nice career for himself with roles in Kill Your Darlings and now this. He carries a certain charm and his ability to bounce off of Kazan during conversations allows for some of the more enjoyable parts of the film.
Kazan continues to become a new staple of the rom-com after her turn in Ruby Sparks, which I didn’t completely enjoy because of the position it put her in, but found her enchanting and well-imagined in this film. She offers that quirky, male dream image that dominates the genre, but also tries hard to work outside of that mold that sometimes conforms the women of romantic comedies.
But the scene-stealer has to be Driver who infuses his brash sense of humor that made him a staple on Girls and uses it for good here. He carries every scene he is in and while he doesn’t drive the movie, he is able to create hilarious scene after scene alongside the equally comparable Radcliffe.
What If isn’t ground-breaking in any regard and it won’t change the genre any, instead it builds off what has been established in front of it and uses two new faces to make something that feels original and different. The dialogue is sharp, the actors are on point, and What If delivers a satisfying romantic trip to the movies that will make you running home to your copy of (500) Days of Summer or About Time.