It's hard out there for a rom-com right now. The only ones that seem to succeed are those billed as dramas starring men (lookin' at you Silver Linings Playbook). Thus it makes sense that What If revolves around Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), a somewhat pathetic twenty-something in Toronto burned by previous relationships. Wallace meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a party, and they instantly connect. That is, until Wallace finds out that Chantry has a long-term boyfriend. Determined not to be "that guy", Wallace tries to be just friends with her while increasingly growing closer. Do I really need to tell you what happens next.
What If is a pleasant, if thoroughly predictable, film. As a kid obsessed with the Harry Potter films, it can be hard for me to see Radcliffe as anything other than "The Boy Who Lived". But Radcliffe gets to thankfully keep his British accent and does an admirable job as the exasperated Wallace, showing off a more dorky, less heavy side of his range. Kazan does as much as she can with Chantry, who hits all the indie girl stereotypes. She's an animator with a hipster sense of dress and big doe eyes. Drawings she does literally jump off the page and start flying around as projections on buildings. She and her friends are in a knitting club. And I must mention Wallace's best friend Allan, played by Adam Driver. Driver has been popping up everywhere lately due to his strange charm, and he does much the same shtick in this film "“ but it works, and his line deliveries had the theater rolling.
That said this film is full of charisma and enjoyable all the way through. Wallace and Chantry have great banter and dorky chemistry. And as much as the film seems to market Wallace as the main character, we end up delving deeper into Chantry's life. We meet her boyfriend, her coworkers, and her family. We go along on her journey of getting closer to Wallace, ignoring her feelings, and finally coming to a crossroads where she must decide what and who she really wants.
While What If surely isn't selling us anything new, Radcliffe and Kazan are selling it hard. And I've certainly seen worse attempts. While the script is full of clichés and predictability, the cast imbues it with energy, enough at least to not leave a sickly sweet taste in my mouth.