Director: Michael Dowse
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park, Ralf Spall, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis
Written by: Elan Mastai, (based on the play “Toothpaste and Cigars”) T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi
Running Time: 102 mins
Release date: 20th August 2014
What if they made a romantic comedy in which the characters actually spoke like regular people? What If there wasn’t a collection of stock characters that tick all the boxes in the list of “How to make a romantic comedy”? What If they made a romantic comedy that wasn’t predictable and finally, one that was funny? What If I liked What If? No matter how hard I tried, it just doesn’t work.
Wallace is a failed medical student still pinning over the break-up with his cheating ex. While at a party, he meets Chantry, a smart, witty girl and they instantly hit it off. Then she drops the bomb. She has a boyfriend. They still decide to be friends and yet while they spend so much time together, they find themselves falling for each other but cannot do anything about it because of Chantry’s UN boyfriend, Ben. Everyone can see how Chantry is affecting Wallace and yet he won’t tell her his feelings. Even when Ben is sent to Dublin, it becomes tougher for him to be with her.
This is one of those films that makes you believe there are really hip and cool people out there who have in-depth conversations about Elvis Presley and have coffee in cafes and meet their girlfriends to chat while knitting! All the time, what they are really doing is alienating the audience from the characters because there is absolutely no way anyone talks like these people.
Taking a strip from When Harry Met Sally and trying to inject a drop of Woody Allen or two, doesn’t make for an interesting, or for that matter, funny, experience. The reason that When Harry is regarded as the best rom com, is because it is very funny. It has lines that are instantly quotable and the conversations, while a little stagey, feel real.
We then have the ‘best friend’, usually a slobbish creature who gives bad advice and who is more often than not, sex crazy. And lo, here he is in the form of Allan, a fast talking guy who has a girlfriend in which they cannot keep out of each other’s pants. These same characters do things that no other human would do, like hold an engagement party to then announce the wedding is also included.
Director Michael Dowse tries his best with the material, giving us a pretty looking Toronto and Dublin but the problem is the script, based on the play “Toothpaste and Cigars”. It’s just too pleased with itself and it comes across as smug. Even when it starts sounding close to being human, it still has that air of smugness about it, as if it wants to be congratulated by its normality.
The performances are fine. Daniel Radcliffe, in his first rom com, is perfectly fine, although you do get concerned that his jaw is going to be dislocated by him sticking it out too much. Zoe Kazan, who was so good in Ruby Sparks, is also fine here. Cute, sparky and wide-eyed, it would have been so much better if it had been scripted by her again like her previous rom com experience.
There are a few moments when you snigger but that is not enough to prolong this 102 minute film. It needed to be funnier, less smug and pseudo-intellectual and drop the When Harry similarities and be its own invention. Plus, it’s hardly a joy when the main characters have conversations about famous people’s poo for the first few minutes of the film. Very inviting.