Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The F Word/What If

Daniel Radcliffe is proving to be quite an accomplished young actor just three short years since the end of Harry Potter. Some will argue that his success is hinged, and will always be, on his role as the boy wizard. But I have to disagree, and this film offers a good argument for that. Based on the play Cigars and Toothpaste this romantic comedy follows Wallace (Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) as they struggle to not become friends with benefits and something further, as Zoe is already in a happy relationship and Wallace does not want to force a hurtful break up.
Some of you may be thinking though, surely a slight change in plot will struggle to make this film stand out. So many rom-coms have become utterly forgettable and very formulaic, in some ways this one isn’t an exception. We certainly aren’t straying from our familiar comfort zones. Take a look at the first fifteen minutes of this film, what do you think will happen. You’re probably right. The traditional American girl meets British boy characterisation is here, apart from the fact that she’s Canadian.
But there are plenty of redeeming features to make up for the rather formulaic narrative. There is a genuine and believable chemistry between the two main stars. Radcliffe and Kazan both bounce off of each other very well whilst clashing when they need to. The characters are given quite a rough time of it, emotionally at least. This means that we’re always interested in what happens and unsure what we really want for them. Although the ending may be predictable, you’ll have to keep guessing whether it will be portrayed as a happy or depressing fate for these people.
It also appeals very well to the mid-twenties target audience. The fast paced humour mixed with traditional yet still very entertaining style of humour creates a witty and smart as well as being unusually self-conscious for a film in this genre. It reminds me of two things, firstly this entire romantic comedy style is associated mainly with Richard Curtis, director of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and About Time. He does this genre better than most and can always put a nice spin on it.
As well as the similar humour this observation leads me onto another point. It’s also quite reminiscent of 500 Days of Summer. While I may mock the plot slightly, like I said before while the narrative may be predictable, the emotional impact of the film is unusually difficult to predict. It’s feel good most of the time, as a film like this needs to be, but it also becomes hard-hitting at the right moments. The fact that these characters actually want to be friends purely to maintain the status quo, and that they get along so well as friends makes you wonder if they might have dodged a bullet. After all, as films have repeatedly taught us, Love can hurt.
It’s a welcome change of acting style for Radcliffe, proving he is far more than a one trick pony. And with the Curtis style humour and slightly, but not by much, original plot, The F Word/What If has proven to be a sweet and charming flick for those lazy nights out.
Result: 7/10

Normally that would be the end, but I would also like to briefly offer my condolences to family, friends and fans of actor and director Richard Attenborough who passed away this week. Among an incredible career are roles in the 1996 version of Hamlet named by many, including this site, as the finest adaptation of Shakespeare in cinema. He also starred in The Great Escape and Steven Spielberg’s stunning Jurassic Park. As well as this Attenborough directed a number of successful films such as Chaplin, A Bridge too far and Ghandi, winner of eight Academy Awards. 

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