Daniel Radcliffe’s experimentation period continued with What If, an independent romantic comedy about the line between friendship and love, and how to navigate the width of the line when you need to most. For an independent film, it has quite a starcast, including a certain aforementioned Harry Potter star, as well as Zoe Kazan and Adam Driver, two well established movie stars in their own right. The film was released in a limited capacity in 2014.
I have tremendous respect for the cast of this film, Dan Radcliffe being one of my favorite people (not to mention, you know, Harry Potter) as well as Adam Driver since saving the role of the most recent Star Wars antagonist and Zoe Kazan having produced multiple fine performances in the capacity I’ve seen her in, which is perhaps not a capacity wide enough to judge. That said, I thought they were let down by a team of lazy writers. There are moments in the film that are downright criminal in the way they blatantly don’t give a damn if what they’re writing comes across as on the nose, or just bad. There are honestly moments of dialogue and plot central moments that just don’t make any sense from a writer’s perspective, and that took a lot from the overall impact of the film for me. I’m sorry, but a film is predicated on the idea that we should care, and if the way we’re meant to be made to care is done with such a lack of nuance, such laziness, then you haven’t done the best job you’re capable of. The writing was really very poor in the film, and was almost redeemed by a cast that was better than the script.
As performances go in independent rom-coms, these were on the better end of the spectrum without a doubt. Radcliffe has proved multiple times since Potter that he is an actor, not just a franchise child star. Kazan was, frankly, the star performer of the film, really finding something in the depths of what was, on paper, a fairly shallow character; for the audience to hold on to. She and Radcliffe have decent chemistry, never lighting the screen on fire but often making for a moment more meaningful than the script justified, and it was their performances that stopped the film from being a real catastrophe, but only just.
The themes and ideas that the film addresses are important, especially in a world where the lines between different kinds of relationships grow thinner and thinner, and where they do not, they snake ad curve in ways we don’t understand. There have been subtler and nuanced examples of addressing the same issue, all of which would receive a higher recommendation from me. The thing that does this film ill is the writing, and I do feel terrible about that, because, as a writer, seeing bad writing in a place where good could happen is the most woeful of things. I can’t say I’d recommend this film, there are just too many similar ones that are, to put it bluntly, better.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 58/100 Aryamaan’s Score –