I was a Harry Potter kid. I was part of the generation that was raised alongside the boy with the lightning scar (and his two best friends). I began reading the first novel when I was in elementary school, and the series followed me – both in the characters’ ages and overall reading level – into my adulthood. That said, when Daniel Radcliffe took on his role as the boy-wizard for the film adaptations of the beloved series, he not only took on an acting job but a persona that would follow him into adulthood.
But Daniel Radcliffe is not Harry Potter anymore, and he’s been trying to shake the pigeon-hole for quite some time. While he has appeared in numerous pieces since his wizarding days, “What If” was the first time I, personally, was able to see him as something and someone else. (Granted, I haven’t seen that many of his post-Potter works.) To me though, this was one of the biggest highlights of the film. Radcliffe has spent his entire life portraying a “magical” entity, be it another world’s “chosen one” and a Hollywood megastar. The fact that he was so easily able to convince me that he was an average, if not downtrodden and (at times) pathetic, young adult is a testament to Radcliffe’s acting chops.
The movie itself is a bit of a cliche-romcom with a hipster flair. You have the typical love-triangle setup – which really irks me, but more on that later – where Radcliffe’s character (Wallace, seriously) meets the perfect girl (Chantry, again seriously) at an awkward party. He’s miserable, she’s miserable, but somehow fate brings them together and their personalities click. Unfortunately, Chantry’s already got a boyfriend. Her beau’s no castoff either; he’s a bigwig consultant in the United Nations, and they’ve been together for 5 years.
So, Wallace and Chantry decide to become friends, with Wallace secretly pining away as Chantry tries to deny the feelings she has for him. Things get shaken up a bit when Chantry’s boyfriend gets transferred to Dublin. She starts missing him and starts to see the potential in her connection with Wallace. I won’t tell you what her final decision is, because I’m not all about dem spoilers, but the remainder of the movie centers on how the situation plays out.
The problem here – and the main problem that I had with the movie in general – is that Chantry’s boyfriend really isn’t a bad guy. He’s attentive to her, professionally successful, and focused on building their life together. Even when he questions Wallace’s motives, I can’t really blame him; after all, Wallace does secretly have feelings for Chantry. The only real upper hand that Wallace has is that he seems to innately understand Chantry a little bit better. Another problem, though… As with most of these movies, we conveniently don’t see the backstory between Chantry and her boyfriend. They might be fantastic together with this wonderful history, and we have no proof that they aren’t, so why should we be rooting for Wallace? Besides having sympathy for Wallace, because he’s the main character, I didn’t really find any reason to root for him to succeed.
The other main problem? Adam Driver. Or rather, his character Allan. Allan was supposed to be the compulsive character that compelled Wallace to come out of his shell. Instead of pulling that off, though, Allan was just annoying. Maybe I was biased because I just don’t relate well to his personality type, but he seemed waaaaay over the top and unbelievable. That might just be me.
Overall, if you’re looking for a hipster-esque spin on your classic romantic comedy, this isn’t a bad flick. Daniel Radcliffe’s acting ability stands out, and there are some clever one-liners here and there to give you a few laughs. It definitely made for some good movie fodder on a random Wednesday night if you have Amazon Prime.