Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan attempt to answer this question in their latest romantic comedy, “What If”. Meeting at a party in Toronto and enjoying each others' company, Wallace (Radcliffe) quickly discovers that his new crush, Chantry (Kazan), has a serious boyfriend. Thus begins the struggle of starting and maintaining a platonic relationship based on mutual, unreciprocal attraction. Definitely a love story that has been told before (i.e. “When Harry Met Sally”), the bright, young cast helps to deflect any retraced material, while offering up cynical, off-beat, and back-and-forth banter that puts Radcliffe and Kazan’s chemistry on full display, producing a similar sizzle present between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in “500 Days Of Summer”. Kazan continues to carry the torch as the adorable and approachable love interest that Deschanel used to be while Radcliffe moves further and further away from his “Harry Potter” persona.
Wallace lasts longer in the friendship than I would have, as my attraction for Zoe Kazan in particular would have instantly proven too much of a burden for me to carry. Also, with the women surrounding Wallace throughout the film, including his ex-girlfriend, played by Sarah Gadon, and Chantry’s sister, Dalia (Megan Park), I assuredly would have caved to their advances. These talented women, along with Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, turn in stellar supporting performances, raising this mid-level comedy to much more memorable heights. Relatable and down-to-earth for most of the film, eventually the writing becomes indulgent, providing too many romantic comedy tropes and too many nicely tied bows. The conflict feels forced at times, with unwarranted character shifts spawning out of unprovoked arguments. Worse than that, the resolutions to these arguments come off just as unnatural. In the end, it is Radcliffe and Kazan’s allure that inevitably keeps the film afloat. So, can men and women just be friends? From my personal experiences so far, they cannot. Separating physical attraction from a platonic relationship is grueling, to which the creator’s of “What If” would likely agree.
Four stars out of Five.
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