Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

October 17, 2014

Just good friends?

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:34 pm

October 17, 2014

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Rafe Spall, Megan Park, Mackenzie Davis

Director: Michael Dowse

Twenty-five years since writer Nora Ephron and director Rob Reiner got us to ponder over that inevitable question – Can men and women ever just be friends without sex getting in the way? – comes What If. This enjoyable although far-from-groundbreaking romantic comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan treads such similar ground it feels like a modern update to that enduring gem. It might as well have been titled When Harry Potter Met Sally.

Radcliffe is Wallace, a med-school dropout who meets Chantry (Kazan) at a house party in Toronto. The pair has instant chemistry, and it’s clear that Wallace is smitten by her. But while walking her home that night, she reveals, a little too late, that she has a boyfriend (Rafe Spall). Reluctantly, Wallace agrees to be friends. Pretty soon they’re hanging out together, going on platonic dates, and exchanging flirty banter, thereby prompting you to wonder – Can this friendship last, or is it going to end in heartbreak?

Despite strictly following rom-com conventions, there’s still a freshness to this film, supplied by its involving leads whose Everyman/Everywoman appeal keeps you invested in their story. Radcliffe does the bumbling Brit routine pretty well, channeling a younger Hugh Grant if you will, that nagging sense of insecurity offset by a tendency to speak a lot. Kazan, meanwhile, is refreshingly normal; that rare rom-com leading lady who doesn’t employ cutesy tricks to manipulate you into adoring her.

It helps that the dialogue is consistently witty, and that the actors – particularly Radcliffe – aren’t prissy when it comes to talking about sex or even getting naked. In one of the film’s funniest scenes, after some late-night skinny-dipping, Wallace finds himself stranded in his birthday suit with nothing but a few leafy branches to cover his modesty. The best laughs though are provided by Adam Driver, playing Wallace’s hilariously blunt best friend Alan.

What If isn’t particularly memorable; this isn’t a film that’ll stay with you long after you’ve left the cinema. But it’s a pleasing enough watch with plenty charming moments. You’ll even forgive the predictable plotting because the actors steal your heart. I’m going with three out of five. Give it a chance, you won’t regret it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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