Tuesday, August 26, 2014
What If Review
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.
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.
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.