HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: What If?
HTS Overall Score:78
Rom Com’s are a dime a dozen these days. Actually it’s not even “these days”, as the romantic comedy has been around almost as long as film has been around. They can be bad, they can be cheesy, and they can be sweet, and heartwarming, sometimes all at the same time. A romantic comedy is always like playing Russian roulette, sometimes you find out you batted a zero and next time you get a knockout. An indie romantic comedy with Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of the amazing director Elia Kazan) made my spidey sense tingle and I’m rarely let down by my spidey sense. “What if” turned out to be a sweet take on the psychological study of “what attracts people to each other”. Most of the time it’s a big hit, but it took a stumble near the end of the film that felt a bit awkward and kept it from me leaving with a 100% satisfied feeling.
Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) are having a bit of a down turn in their love life. Wallace is still moping around after he caught his ex-girlfriend cheating on him and Chantry is caught in a relationship that is turning from hot to lukewarm at a rapid pace. Meeting at a party the two find out they have a bit in common. Both are a bit awkward in public, a little quirky with the humor and happen to know some of the same people. Chantry is the cousin of Wallace’s roommate, Allan (Adam Driver) and with a little bit of luck and some time Wallace finds himself wildly attracted to Chantry. It’s a lovely evening, Wallace walks the lady home and then Chantry casually mentions that her boyfriend is probably wondering where she is. Realizing that Chantry just wants to be friends, Wallace has to swallow his attraction and just be friends.
As you might have already guessed, staying friends is much more difficult in practice than we’d like it to be. The two gallivant around Toronto being the best of pals, but Wallace is torn up inside. He, of course, would love to pursue Chantry, but refuses to because he doesn’t want to break up her and her boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall). With more time spent together the two realize that friendship is really the basis for any romance. Their likes, their dislikes, the long walks, they fit together like a hand in a glove. With Ben off to Dublin for a 6 month stint for his job, Chantry and Wallace start to realize that the glove most definitely fits. Finally, Wallace can’t stand it anymore and finally tells Chantry of his feelings. Hurt and dismayed that Wallace hadn’t been honest from the first, and a little angry at herself for almost going down that road a divide is created between the pair. Wallace starts to get back on track and go back to medical school, and Chantry is going to accept a great promotion which requires her to move to Taiwan (and of course breaks up with Ben when she realizes that their relationship had been stagnant for too long).
Here’s where it got a little sticky. We had the perfect setup for a morality tale and a bit of harsh reality, but Director Michael Dowse went another direction with it. Instead of the painful breakup we get the sugar coated ending. In most movies this would be an instant “I told you so!!!”, but here it’s a tad different. The sugar sweet ending was pretty much obvious from the back of the case, and we all knew it was coming, but it’s the actual morality tale that works here. Instead of letting the sugar sweet ending ruin the movie it actually kind of works, as it focuses more on the reason why people attract more than anything. We see Chantry and Wallace fit together over the course of almost 6 months instead of the stupid and clichéd few weeks and you see a relationship grow over time. Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan meshed really well together too. Daniel has had a really hard time breaking out of the “Harry Potter” type casting and his last few movies haven’t done that well theatrically. It’s nice to see him spread his wings in an indie environment instead of struggling to regain the fame and popularity of his childhood.
For all the fun and sweetness there is a little bit of a downer to the film. We see that Chantry and Wallace are right for each other and all, but the “stagnant” relationship between Ben and Chantry was really where the movie stumbled. It really didn’t seem that they were THAT stagnant. It was pointed out several times that they were SUPPOSED to be on the rocks, but it really didn’t look that way till the very very end. Had there been a bit more emphasis on the rocky relationship it would have worked better, but the Segway between Chantry and Wallace being awkward friends to her getting over her boyfriend moved a bit too fast for comfort. The very end was extremely sweet and fit the two of them perfectly, but that changing of the guard just felt rather awkward and the handoff felt a bit rushed.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, including references throughout, partial nudity and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=34177[/img]“What If” is shot in the scope 2.35:1 ratio (which is rather out of the ordinary for a Rom Com), and looks very good for a DVD. I apologize about not being able to review the Blu-ray, but that’s how the chips fell. Black levels and contrast look good, but not fantastic, as I noticed some washing out of colors in some of the darker scenes and the contras could have been boosted a bit. The colors, on the other hand, are done with a nice burnished red look to them, and mirror the blushing tones of the main characters in their relationship. Sometimes they look a bit desaturated, but the outdoor scenes show some impressive coloring. There is some inherent softness to the image, but that seems to be a directorial choice as it doesn’t vary from scene to scene. There’s no banding and no signs of macroblocking, leaving us with a very pleasant image to enjoy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=34185[/img]The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is even better, giving us a rather bombastic track for a romantic comedy. There’s the obvious front heavy moments, but the track is given some great dynamics and allow us to listen to a soft discussion between Wallace and Chantry, then shift to an explosive club scene with bass pounding all around and the crowded sounds of a bar flooding the back channels. Surrounds are pleasantly active, filling in a lot of cracks with the sounds of a big city. Little sonic details are all around, from the crowded terminal in Toronto, to the mumbling conversation of a couple in the booth behind us. Dialogue is never an issue, as it is well balanced from the get go and stays very consistent throughout. A stellar track, and one that surprises you for a traditionally dialogue centric genre.
• Opposites Attact
• Blurred Lines
“What If” is a sweet little romantic comedy that doesn’t really focus on all of the saccharine sweet stereotypes and rather lets us watch the relationship grow organically. It almost through me for a loop because we have the standard “guy likes girl, girl has a boyfriend, guy has to win her over” scenario, but instead of dominating the screen with clichés it lets us watch the two struggle with very real issues. Both of them struggle REALLY hard to do the right thing in the situation, Wallace doesn’t want to become a wedge and cause someone to cheat, and Chantry doesn’t either, but they have to come to grips with their feelings and attraction in some way shape or form. Sometimes they awkwardly make mistakes, other times they do it perfectly and in the end, they come to realize what they both find precious is something to hold on to. The audio and video are certainly impressive for a DVD, and by all accounts the Blu-ray is just as faithful as the DVD is to the source material. Good for a watch.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Megan Park, Adam Driver
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 97 Minutes
DVD Release Date: Nov 25th, 2014
Buy What If DVD on Amazon
Buy What If Blu-Ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Give it a Wach
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