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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

'What if' Review.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that going to the cinema is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to spend a rainy day. The comfy chairs, the sweet smell of popcorn, switching off from the world for a couple of hours, and even the gross sticky floors - going to see a movie is one of my secret indulgences. Yes, I'm the girl that goes to see movies on my own... and I love every single minute of it. However, today I managed to cajole a close girlfriend into going with me. Plus, it's always nice having someone to split your snacks with. Bella and I did it properly by popping into Tesco Express on the way and stocking up on cheap chocolate so you're not forced to pay ridiculous prices at the theatre. But I digress. As the rainstorm that's drenched London these past couple days showed no sign of slowing down, we decided to alter our plans of going to the London Museum of Transport and check out the new Daniel Radcliffe movie, 'What If', instead. I won't lie, I was way too excited to finally see this film. During my six day stint at work, I kept imagining what I'd do with my days off. Seeing this movie was top of my list.
And yet I was so disappointed. As a self-confessed lover of rom-coms (just check out My Top Five Ultimate Chick Flicks for details) I had high hopes for 'What If' but it just didn't make the cut. The advertisements made it out to be a smart, witty, and faced-paced movie but it fell short of all those qualities. I spent most of the time trying to figure out if the characters were supposed to be frustrating (and therefore relatable) or whether the entire plot was just lacking pace. The movie circulates around relationships. Wallace is a largely cynical medical-school drop-out who doesn't believe in love. Of course he flaws head over heels for the quirky Chantry who, surprise surprise, is in a long-term relationship and living with her boyfriend, Ben. Meanwhile, Wallace's best friend Allan (played by the hilarious Adam Driver) meets his match in Nicole and their flourishing romantic relationship runs alongside Wallace and Chantry's growing intimacy. From the basic plot, the film seemed to have a lot of potential.
I realised very early on that the movie wasn't going to be great. Mostly because of the lack of chemistry between Wallace and Chantry and because of the film's lack of direction. There wasn't anything enticing happening until way after I'd lost interest. I didn't feel invested in Wallace and Chantry's friendship - their early meetings were glossed over in a movie montage fashion that their chemistry was completely lost in the process. One moment they were strangers awkwardly making small talk at a party and the next they're BFFs.

I think this must be the only chick flick I've ever watched where I've not wanted the protagonists to get together. Towards the end of the film, Chantry is faced with major life decisions - whether to follow her boyfriend to Dublin, break up with him and pursue a relationship with Wallace, or move to Taiwan for work - she makes the 'right' decision to follow her career. But then ends up kissing Wallace at her leaving party and the film ends there. Which was frustrating and a bit of a relief at the same time. Weirdly enough, the first few minutes of the credits show Wallace and Chantry's flourishing relationship in animation form which concludes in their marriage. Excuse me, what did I miss? I feel like the writers were trying to make this a fairy-tale happy ending for the two but instead left their audiences feeling ripped off. Yes, the whole film was leading up to their eventual declarations of love but it should have absolutely ended there. Ultimately, I felt sorry for Chantry's suffering boyfriend, Ben, and thought she made the wrong decision by choosing Wallace - as lovely as he is. But perhaps that's my own long-distance relationship talking.
Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver carried this movie. Their bromance and relationship advice made for the best scenes - the ones that have consequently made it into the adverts. Radcliffe nailed this role and played it perfectly. He was sweet and funny and evoked just the right amount of sympathy. I wanted him to win Chantry but ultimately didn't think she was worth fighting for. I really don't want to hate on women here, it's hard being a woman in the spotlight after all, but I felt that Zoe Kazan's performance left little to be desired. She fulfilled the quirky girl stereotype perfectly, but Chantry's apparent indecisiveness came across as cold and disinterested. Her best moments were those with Ben, which is why her eventual romantic relationship with Wallace was so confusing as a viewer. If I was reading the script, Chantry should absolutely end up with Wallace but on the big screen, she belonged to Ben. I found her cute-girl kookiness a little forced and artificial - it felt like the writers were trying to emulate the heroine of '(500) Days of Summer' and failing. Zooey Deschanel mastered the girl-next-door and heartbreaker perfectly which is what made the film so successful. Chantry is aslo supposed to be a three-dimensional character but that failed to come through in Kazan's performance. It felt like 'What If' was trying to explore the different sides of Chantry but instead made her appear emotionless and cold. The structure of the film also seemed to revolve around Chantry and her animated self which I found out of place. In the final credits, Chantry is drawn as a bird with wings who takes Wallace to Taiwan with her and flies him all over the globe. It was unsettling. As if Chantry's life choices was dictating their life together. After all, relationships should be about compromise, not about letting your decisions dictate your other half's life.
On paper, 'What if' is a good movie. Unfortunately, it hasn't translated well on the silver screen. Parts of it were humorous and enjoyable but I constantly felt like it was missing something. The plot wasn't engaging and I didn't feel Chantry and Wallace's connection like you're supposed to. The sign of a good chick flick is the goosebumps you get at crucial moments in the film ('Why didn't you write me?', 'Nobody puts baby in a corner', 'you have bewitched me body and soul and I love you', etc etc). 'What If' was lacking that chemistry and realistically, that is the foundation of a really wonderful romantic comedy.

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