Of all the genres of cinema, perhaps the hardest one to get right is romantic comedy. I’ve already written at length about the standard formula that writers use, and since there tends to be so little variation from it, the genre usually suffers, resulting in a group of films that are dull, predictable, and almost exactly alike. However, every now and again, a writer can take the standard formula and turn it into something that feels fresher than what we usually get. Throw in a pair of likeable and talented actors and you have that rare entry in the genre that’s actually worth seeing, which brings us to a charming little film called “What If.”
The story revolves around Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), a young man who caught his girlfriend cheating on him several months prior to the start of the film. After breaking up with her, he has been somewhat of a loner, staying in his sister’s attic and hardly ever going out for fun. While at a friend’s party, he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) and hits it off almost immediately. The two end up walking home together, which is where she drops the bombshell that she already has a boyfriend. However, they decide to be friends, leading them to get together several times a week. The more time they spend together, the more Wallace realizes that he really likes her, but what is he to do about her current romantic situation?
So what makes “What If” particularly different from all those other cookie cutter entries in the romantic comedy genre? In terms of narrative, nothing really. We have a couple that spends almost the entire film together, with the audience standing by and waiting for them to get together. Of course there are complications that prevent this from the very start, and there’s the major event near the end of the film that makes you think that everything won’t be alright, but what makes this film a little different is that its screenplay is a little more intelligently written than what we’re used to seeing from the genre. For starters, it’s actually funny, an element that many writers are baffled by when it comes to romance. However, Elan Mastai’s screenplay is sprinkled with genuinely amusing bits of dialogue that capture that awkward relationship feeling marvelously.
The other half of its success comes from the leads, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, who seem so incredibly natural together that the relationship is fully believable, hence the romance and comedy of this romantic comedy are actually fulfilled, which is very rare nowadays. The only part of it that feels false is the ending, which comes off as being tacked on at the last minute. Leading up to the last few minutes, you get the feeling that Mastai is going to have the courage to go with the ending that would probably happen in this situation, but after a quick time jump, there we are at “happily ever after,” with very little explanation of how we got there. That being said, this remains a charming and funny film that manages to transcend most of the usual trappings of the genre, making it that unique romantic comedy that won’t leave you squirming in your seat for the duration of its runtime.
“What If” arrives on Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of exceptional quality, featuring a picture that’s sharp and clear without a trace of fuzziness throughout the presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is loud and clear, presenting all elements at excellent levels, ensuring that all dialogue can be heard without issue. Overall, this little film has been given grand treatment that likely could not be improved upon.
Deleted Scenes: About five minutes of deleted scenes that are interesting to watch, but given that they feel a bit superfluous, it’s easy to see why they were cut.
Behind the Scenes of What If: An 18-minute featurette that delves into the making of the film, featuring interviews with cast and crew. Worth taking a look at if you’re interested in learning how it came together.
Opposites Attract, Blurred Lines, and A Modern Love Story: These are very brief and superficial featurettes that tell you very little about the film. Easily skippable.
“What If” is that rare romantic comedy that’s able to fulfill both parts of the genre qualifications, while at the same time overcoming the limitations placed on it by the cumbersome and overused formula normally associated with it. Also boasting two wonderful performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, the film is nothing short of delightful and, despite the forced ending, is very much worth seeing, whether you’re a fan of the genre or not.