In the wake of his decade playing Harry Potter, young, talented actor Daniel Radcliffe has certainly blossomed and matured in his entertainment career. He has taken unconventional film roles and has earned much praise with his stints on Broadway. At the tender age of 24, Mr. Radcliffe continually brings joy to the world and manages to captivate his audiences. His latest film What If (aka The F Word) is a charming romantic dramedy in which he and fellow youngin Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, Revolutionary Road) play an intriguing game of emotional ping pong. The film is quirky, raw, and downright fun.
Wallace (Radcliffe) is your typical 20-something med school dropout. Chantry (Kazan) is your typical 20-something creative animator type. These two meet by chance at a party and from then on, embark on a roller coaster ride full of lust and longing. Chantry is involved with someone else and Wallace is hopelessly in love and in pursuit of Chantry. The entire film poses the audience with the “Will they, won’t they?” dilemma and the results are actually pretty above average.
Radcliffe gives a strong performance here as Wallace, the vulnerable and extremely likable main character. Kazan is simply okay and at times, a bit annoying. Her role could have easily been handed to another cute, young actress but sadly was not. Adam Driver (Girls, Inside Llewyn Davis) stands out here in a wonderfully goofy role as Wallace’s meathead lothario friend Allan. Together, the entire cast provides an amusing, lighthearted feel with a healthy mix of strong comedic timing and pure, top notch acting.
Director Michael Dowse (Goon, Take Me Home Tonight) has helmed a truly fun film here. The camerawork, editing, and occasional animation elevate the film to great heights. The same can be said about screenwriter Elan Mastai, who adapted T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi’s play (who won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Adapted Screenplay). The dialogue coupled with the actors recitation of said dialogue is the true magic of What If. Daniel Radcliffe shines brightly in this film and a few minutes into the film, you will almost forget he rode on a broom and fought evil all for all those years. What If has a lot of things going for it. Few rom coms these days manage to pull off freshness and originality. Fortunately, What If does just that.
A little side note: Radcliffe and Kazan actually introduced the film at the screening I attended and they couldn’t be more cute or pleasant. Their chemistry on camera as well as off was very apparent. What If surprised me in a very good way. I was expecting a tired cliche of a movie but the film I saw was very much the opposite. Radcliffe has certainly proven that he has the acting chops worthy of a movie star. Romantic comedies are an appropriate launchpad for long, successful careers. Sure, he made a splash as a lovable wizard but his true gift seems to lie in comedy. Here’s hoping Mr. Radcliffe continues to tickle our funny bones much more in the near future.