“Is this always how you make friends, like it’s a business deal?” asks Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe). “Yeah, actually, it’s just my style,” replies Chantry (Zoe Kazan). “It’s quite unnerving but it’s good,” answers Wallace who has just become friends with the one girl he connected with at a party but who unfortunately has a boyfriend in the romantic comedy/drama What If.
Medical school dropout Wallace is still struggling to get over being cheated on by his ex-girlfriend and trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life when he meets Chantry, a professional animator. There’s an instant spark between them and for the first time in months, Wallace finds himself actually having a good time talking to a woman and feels so confident he even asks for Chantry’s number. It’s while she’s giving him her number that Chantry says, “Yeah it would be fun to hang out,” and reveals she has a long term boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall), who she lives with. Realizing Chantry seems only interested in him as a friend, Wallace loses her number and goes home.
But fate seems to have other plans for Wallace who, while exiting the movies alone the following week, bumps into Chantry who also happens to be by herself. Once again feeling instant chemistry, Wallace and Chantry go and have coffee and he walks her home. The two decide to be friends and it’s not long before they’re not just friends but best friends.
The only problem is that Wallace is falling hard for Chantry and doesn’t want to be “The One” who she cheats with and breaks up with her boyfriend over, especially since that’s what happened to him. It also doesn’t help that his roommate, Allan (Adam Driver), and his girlfriend, Dalia (Megan Park), keep encouraging Wallace to go for it with Chantry and not worry about breaking up her relationship. This leaves Wallace wondering what a person should do when they meet the right one at the wrong time.
Sweet, funny, and quirky, What If is a romantic dramedy that asks and then deals with the classic question: Can a man and woman who find each other attractive and have real chemistry just be friends?
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are perfect as Wallace and Chantry, two best friends who really should be lovers. They have wonderful chemistry together on screen and Daniel shines in his first romantic comedy. The scene in the dress shop where Chantry, while trying on a dress that’s clearly too small for her, gets it stuck trying to pull it over her head and needs Wallace to come into the dressing room and help her with his eyes closed is cute, humorous and tender. Another great scene is finds Wallace seeing ex-girlfriend for the first time in months and Chantry standing by him doing her best to be supportive to her new best friend. It captures perfectly the awkwardness and finality of the end of a relationship.
Adam Driver steals every scene he’s in as Wallace’s roommate and friend, a loud, extremely outspoken and outgoing person who deep down truly cares about Wallace and his happiness, just not at the cost of his own. The scenes between Adam and Daniel have by far the biggest laugh-out-loud moments in the film.
The film also has superb writing with witty, slick dialogue that’s delivered in a fast-paced manner by the actors. One creative attempt which actually detracts from the film is the now and again use of animation of Wallace, Chantry and others trying to show the feelings and/or weirdness of their friendship. What should be a cute highlight turns out to be nothing more than an annoying and intrusive interruption of the films pacing.
Wanting to be its generation’s When Harry Met Sally although nowhere near that good, What If is a charming and amusing film that’s perfect for date night.
What If is rated PG-13 for sexual content, including references throughout, partial nudity and language.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty