WHAT IF is the story of medical school dropout Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), who's been repeatedly burned by bad relationships. So while everyone around him, including his roommate Allan (Adam Driver) seems to be finding the perfect partner (Mackenzie Davis), Wallace decides to put his love life on hold. It is then that he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) an animator who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall). Wallace and Chantry form an instant connection, striking up a close friendship. Still, there is no denying the chemistry between them, leading the pair to wonder, what if the love of your life is actually your best friend? The ensemble romantic comedy costars Megan Park and Oona Chaplin.
'What If' is a stream of hipster consciousness, which at times ventures into the endearing. Though most of the time it seems to wallow apathetically in rom-com limbo. While many may draw comparisons to '(500) Days of Summer,' 'What If' is much more conventional than it would lead you to believe. It's 'Gilmore Girls'-esque dialogue gives it a shiny veneer of something unexpected, but at its core 'What If' is a decidedly standard romantic comedy.
Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) is your typical depressed rom-com lead. Having just broken up with a long-time girlfriend, we greet Wallace as he sits atop his sister's home (his current place of residence; yeah, the screenplay really lays it on thick regarding Wallace's present pathetic situation in life and romance) as he listens to the very last message from his ex-girlfriend. He's had the message saved for hundreds of days. He deletes it. It's time to move on.
Chantry (Zoe Kazan) is a bubbly young 20-something living in Toronto. She's an animator. She has a loving, successful boyfriend. Everything is looking up for Chantry. Her life is the antithesis of Wallace's. Obviously they have to meet up right?
The meet-cute happens at a party. Wallace and Chantry hit it off. They bounce carefully sculpted, quick-shot dialogue off one another like they've both been watching 'Gilmore Girls' reruns whenever they have free time. At first the quick-witted dialogue is interesting, but it soon gives way to becoming more and more gimmicky as the movie progresses.
There are some genuinely funny moments in 'What If' including a dinner party where Wallace is introduced to Chantry's live-in boyfriend. The two of them become the best of friends, but Wallace dreads being stuck in the ominous Friend Zone. It doesn't help that his best friend Allan (Adam Driver) meets a girl with a boyfriend, woos her instantly, and ends up getting hitched early on. It's like life is laughing at poor, down-on-his-romantic-luck Wallace. He just can't catch a break.
The chemistry between Radcliffe and Kazan keeps the movie humming along for a while. They seem amiable together. Their conversations with each other soon grow tiresome though. We get it, they're witty. They're instinctually able to craft outrageous sentences that bounce from one thought or another without much in the way of normal segues. They're perfect for each other. Sadly, she has a boyfriend and Wallace secretly wishes she didn't.
He pines for her when he's not around her. When they're hanging out he downplays the fact that he would like nothing more to marry her as quickly as possible. Poor Wallace, seems to be the theme of the movie. How much romantic tailings can one guy shovel through before he gives up on the prospect altogether?
'What If' is enjoyable on a purely rudimentary level. It tries to disguise the generic rom-com structure by covering the story in amusingly sharp banter. It only works for so long. Once we realize what's going to happen the screenplay checks off the rom-com checklist until there's nothing else left until the ending we all know is coming. It's a shame really, because it starts off with such promise. Bubbly scripted scenes can only take you so far. At some point you might need to show something that hasn't been done. Or at least put your own spin on an age-old stereotype. Unfortunately, 'What If' is content right where it's at.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'What If' is a Sony release. It comes in a barebones package, including a 25GB Blu-ray, and a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the movie. The disc is packed in a standard keepcase. That's it.
Filmed recently, 'What If' looks good in HD. Filmed digitally, the presentation does have a few limitations though when presented on Blu-ray. For the most part, however, 'What If' is as bright and colorful as just about any recently released rom-coms.
Detail is solid. From Radcliffe's 3-day leading man stubble, to the checked and plaid patterns of Chantry's hipster wardrobe, the detail is never lacking. Colors are vivid, in the daylight. Well-lit scenes offer plenty of detail, color, and nice contrast. The visual presentation isn't going to turn many heads, simply given the nature of the film, but it does look nice in HD.
Darker scenes are where the limitations are noticeable. Crushing is a minor annoyance. No more so than other low-budget HD-filmed romantic comedies, but it's there. I didn't notice any egregious aliasing or any other artifacting that might distract. Shadows give way to the crushing problem as well, offering less-than-ideal delineation.
Same deal with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix of 'What If.' There's not much asked of the mix, since the movie is low-key and talk-heavy. There isn't much in the way of showy sound effects that might highlight and strengthen the mix's effect. That's OK, though, given that the movie is what it is.
Dialogue, which is the main driving force of the movie, is clear. Lines are delivered at a lightning-fast pace, but I never felt like I couldn't hear what they were saying. Rear channels are light with some busy street ambiance and such, but that's about it. The movie's soundtrack has a nice well-rounded sound and permeates most of the channels. Low-end frequencies are very few and far between, usually reserved for accompanying soundtrack music. There's nothing flashy or fancy about 'What If's lossless mix, nevertheless it gets the job done.
'What If' feels slightly fresh and inventive at first. It has its moments where it genuinely inspires chuckles and smiles. That soon wears thin though. When the story, and characters, retread all too familiar rom-com ground, the story stalls and the dialogue becomes gimmicky instead of charming. The audio and video are solid, confined only by the subdued nature of romantic comedies. 'What If' is worth renting if you're interested.