If there’s one thing I can remember about being 15 it’s that I became obsessed with romantic comedies. I’m sure I’m not alone in this; it’s like suddenly the thought of buying a PG-13 movie ticket on your own is the single coolest thing to happen, and almost everyone just assumes they’ll be getting a significant other in high school so romcom’s are kind of like a practice-run into relationships, right? What I didn’t remember, and what took my own 15 year-old sister asking for recommendations to make me realize, is that a large amount of romcom’s are not all that great. This isn’t breaking news; people have always been largely unimpressed with the ‘chick flick’ genre (are you as surprised as me to remember Ryan Gosling got a Golden Globe nod for Crazy Stupid Love?). But as a person who has seen (and loved) a lot of romcom’s, it’s depressing that a lot of the most recent movies are incredibly forgettable and so cliche I wonder why I haven’t written and produced one yet. If you just take them for what they are- cute, funny, harmless- romcom’s are great, but now they’ve just gotten a bad rap for people who are watching them over the age of 17 (and the amount of times I’ve said the word “romcom” is furthering this point).
The last romantic comedy I saw in theaters was the guy-oriented That Awkward Moment (which hurt my brain so much I wished I was watching High School Musical 4 instead), so when my sister begged me to take her to see What If, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, I was sort of expecting the worst. I originally thought it would just be another movie with “darn, I’ve been friend-zoned” undertones, though with Radcliffe involved I should have known better. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I was really interested in seeing him do a completely different role, knowing he would probably be hilarious considering how well he did on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. So I take back what I originally said- I was expecting the worst, but also just really wanted to see Daniel Radcliffe in a romcom.
And I ended up being pleasantly surprised. What If was a fresher look at friendships between men and women. The characters were great; Radcliffe is really charming and Kazan was incredibly sweet and sympathetic. As their best friends, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis were hilarious (Davis also starred in That Awkward Moment so it was nice to see her here), and Megan Park of The Secret Life of the American Teenager was perfectly cast as Kazan’s crazier sister. Parts of the script admittedly threw me for a loop; in one scene, Kazan’s Chantry gives Radcliffe’s Wallace her number on a sheet of paper and it just might have been so Wallace could dramatically let it fly away in the wind, but it would have felt more appropriate in a movie set a few years back? You will probably guess the ending to this movie, but before you get there there’s a unique script, interesting characters, a couple of twists and moments of real awkwardness and relatable tension. The movie didn’t try to push any agendas, just pose the real question of whether or not you should take a chance on something as life-changing and difficult as love.
What If was humorous and well-acted, and not in the same league of movies as say, Failure to Launch, except that it is. Maybe all it takes is a few more well-done movies before people can stop knocking the genre for what it is. Granted, first we actually need a few more well-done movies, but What If gave me hope in a world where people think the upcoming romcom’s are going to involve people going on Tinder dates. The day that happens is the day I give up completely and go back to John Hughes.