Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What If Review

Before going into this movie, I was planning on starting this review off by making some smart comment about Daniel Radcliffe and how he's always going to be stuck as Harry Potter no matter how hard he tries to rid himself of that and get people to see him as Daniel Radcliffe. But then something crazy happened as I was watching this movie. Daniel Radcliffe did such a good job that I actually saw him as Daniel Radcliffe and not Harry Potter. Kudos. Also, I was really nervous going into another romance movie because I am fairly harsh on them. However, even more kudos need to be dished out because I walked away feeling like this was perhaps the most realistic and relatable romance drama that I've seen in a long time. Sadly, the advertising on this movie was pretty much non-existent and thus this movie earned close to nothing in it's opening weekend in wide release, so you will probably have to do a bit of hardcore searching to find this movie, but you totally should because it's a movie that needs to be seen.

First off, let me explain why I am so harsh on romantic dramas. The major reason is that they are so formulaic and predictable. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Some sort of drama happens that causes tension in the romance. Drama is overcome and boy and girl seemingly live happily ever after. So many movies follow this formula to a "t" because so many people, specifically teenage girls, just eat this up time after time after time. To me it feels boring and cheap. Too easy. An unrealistic, plastic fairy tale. If I'm going to enjoy a romantic drama, the movie needs to do something more. Make me care. Break the formula. Include a message that makes the movie more than just romance. Something! And I'm really harsh because I know that well-made romantic dramas are out there. The Fault in Our Stars from earlier this year was one of them. And so is What If.

In What If, we have Daniel Radcliffe playing the role of a guy in his mid-20's who's struck out with romance in his life. He's pretty much given up on romance, but suddenly he's at this party and he meets a girl he actually feels a connection with. They talk casually and he walks her home. Before she goes in, he tries to get her number and she gives it to him, but then reveals that she has a boyfriend. When he goes home, he throws away the number and really doesn't even plan on trying any further. But fate, or simply coincidence, has them running into each other again and she professes that she really wants more friends in her life than just her boyfriend. And BOOM! Daniel Radcliffe is sucked into the super annoying, romantic black hole that is the illustrious FRIEND ZONE!!!

Yes, you are reading a review from a grumpy, old single man that has been friend-zoned about a thousand times. In fact, it has happened so many times that I often find myself in the place of the voice at the beginning of that Neil Diamond/The Monkees/Smash Mouth song "I'm a Believer." You know, the part where he says that he thought love was only true in fairy tales, meant for someone else but not for him because love was out to get him and disappointment haunted all his dreams? Yeah that's me. I haven't made it to the second part of that song yet in my life. And while I don't usually get personal in my reviews, I bring that up because this time because my current situation is why I loved this movie. It's real. It doesn't try to portray this magical fairy tale that teenage girls will eat up. The whole point of this is to show how complicated romance really is. Daniel decides to be this girl's friend and thus he gets himself in a really sticky situation because he finds he likes the girl a little more than he initially led her to believe. What do you do at that point? How do get out of the friend zone? Is it possible? There's one point where he's having a serious conversation with his cousin Adam Driver about it and Driver is trying to give him honest advice about all of his options, but then when Radcliffe repeats to him the advice in simple form, it sounds like a bunch of bad advice because there really is no easy way to go about it.

A lot of discussion can be brought up with all of this about dating in real life. I personally like the route of being friends first. If I'm going to marry someone, I plan on it lasting. And thus I don't want to just be romantically attached to a girl, but I want my wife to honestly be my best friend, because that will make it so much easier and better to live with for the rest of my life. With this in mind, is it appropriate to try to be a girl's friend before taking her on an official date or should I just go the route of trying to date her and becoming friends as I go? If I take the earlier route, at what point do I try to take things to the next level? What if I meet a girl, establish an instant connection, and find out that she is dating someone else? Do I completely back off and make no further contact? Or do I try to be her friend and perhaps wait for the moment when she breaks up? But if I did that, would that make me creepy or rude? What would the boyfriend think of this? Obviously he wouldn't approve, so I don't tell him, but does that make me dishonest? In the Mormon culture there is this idea of a girl waiting for her missionary. So many girls are dead-set on marrying their missionary and they are 100 percent sure that it will work out. But being perfectly honest, the majority of these girls end up not marrying their missionary, so what do you do? If a girl says she has a missionary do you scoff at that and try to date her as if she were lying about that or do you be respectful and back off? And then of course there is this question about if it's even possible to be "just friends." Is it? Girls think it is. But guys don't. So who's right?

I haven't even scratched the surface about all this because there are so many questions about dating and romance. And the beauty of this movie is that it truly dives into this realm of complication and thus was beautiful because of it. I really felt for Daniel Radcliffe because his character in this movie has gone through so much in his past and there are so many problems that he runs into as he tries to take this romance with this girl to the next level. I could dive deep into the specific issues that the movie brings up by bringing up a ton of examples of things that happen in this movie, but I'm going to leave all that a surprise and just say that I really enjoyed watching all the drama in the movie unfold because I felt it was real, human drama and not some crazy fairy tale like you usually see. And of course, in order to make this work, you need top notch performances from everyone around and that's what you got in this movie. This is also a legit romantic comedy. I use that terminology because this movie really made me laugh. The comedy didn't feel forced at all. It flowed naturally and that can be mainly attributed to Radcliffe and Driver. Daniel was perfect at all his dry, honest humor while Adam was perfect at being that goofy, awkward friend.

Finally, I'm going to throw you a complete curveball and say that I can't leave this review without talking about Star Wars. Why, you ask? Well first off, do I really need a reason to talk about Star Wars. Can't I just talk about Star Wars whenever I want? Ok, you got me. It would be weird to randomly talk about Star Wars in the middle of a romantic comedy review when it's not warranted. But this time it is and that's because Adam Driver stars in this movie. If you haven't followed all the Star Wars Episode VII rumors, allow me to inform you that Adam Driver has been cast to play a part in Episode VII, and the big rumor with him is that he supposedly there to play a villain. And let me tell you, I am completely stoked at this. Most people will see this as a curious move because Adam Driver isn't a huge name, but I'm here to tell you that this man is a complete genius. Yes, he is in the TV series Girls. He also played a role in the movie Lincoln and also starred in some other lesser-known movies such as J Edgar, Frances Ha, and Bluebird, but I personally known him from this movie and the movie Inside Llewyn Davis. In both situations, he plays a weird, goofy character, but the thing I love is that both times he completely knocked his roles out of the park and both roles were completely different. This showed me some serious acting chops and as the more I see him, the more I am super impressed with his acting skills and thus the more I am excited to see him in whatever role he is given in Star Wars Episode VII. If that role is a villain, I'm super excited to see this goofy, comedic actor play a serious villain role because I think he will be great. Despite how excellent Daniel Radcliffe was in What If, Adam Driver almost completely stole the show away from him. Almost. Thus his role in this made me even more excited for Episode VII, so I couldn't leave that out. Star Wars fans should see this movie just to see how awesome Adam Driver is.

Wrapping up, What If was a movie that really surprised me. I was skeptic because it was another romantic drama, and more often than not I find those uninteresting. However, this movie was the most relatable romantic drama that I've seen in a long time because of how deep it dove into the subject of the friend zone and thus made the honest, true statement that love is complicated. I asked a lot of questions in this review, and while it would be interesting to hear people's thoughts on these questions, I will sum all them up by saying there probably is no right or wrong answer due to the fact that it really depends on the situation. Every individual is different and every couple is different. Love really has no formula behind it. What if you fall in love with someone who's friend-zoned you? Can it work? And how? That is the "What If" question that this movie attempts to ask by being called What If. I won't give you the answer to that specific question, but I will say it was beautifully answered. For being so personal and so relatable, while having fantastic performances throughout, I am going to award What If with a 9/10. Had I actually completed my review the night I saw the movie, I may have only given it an 8, but it stuck with me this whole week and I have a feeling that it's not going to go away, so I feel it deserves that high rating.

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