Even we married folks have
friends of the opposite gender.
And occasionally it will occur to us that we
seem to have much in common with said friend, though there’s always this
clanging warning bell going off inside our heads, like when big construction
equipment goes in reverse:
you can’t help but hear the loud beeping.
There’s danger here, especially combined with
a lack of due vigilance.
And it’s not really fair to compare a
friendship with a live-in relationship, anyway, because the dynamics of
intimacy are so much different.
But occasionally even otherwise intelligent
people will play with fire and blithely assume that no one will get burned.
Chantry (Zoe Kazan) meets
Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and they seem to have an instant chemistry,
except she quickly informs him that she lives with her boyfriend.
Wallace, still recovering from walking in on
his ex-girlfriend “in flagrante delicto,” decides he doesn’t need to
be strung along any more than he already has.
But he also realizes that he’s become
terribly isolated, living in his sister’s attic apartment, and kind of
helping her be a single Mom who’s dating by baby-sitting her kid, except
Wallace unhappily realizes that that doesn’t really meet his emotional
needs, either. Nor
does his dead-end job writing manuals in a cubicle, after dropping out of
medical school after his instant heartache (she was an intern, then, also).
But when Wallace and Chantry happen upon each
other by chance once again, and “feel the connection” just like they did
before, they can’t help themselves, they just keep talking and naturally
decide to spend more time together.
The viewer, of course, remains
as conflicted as the characters.
We like Chantry, because she’s sweet and
animator by profession.
Sometimes cartoon-like caricatures will float
across the screen, as if we’re privy to her imagination.
Though she’s girl-next-door cute, she
doesn’t seem to be too full of herself, or prima-donna-like, just a happy,
unpretentious person who’s pleasant to be around.
And Wallace finds himself enchanted, while
trying to hide his true feelings, fearing that she’ll be angry with him
for reneging on their platonic arrangement.
And just to be clear, when he does meet the
boyfriend, an uber-successful international attorney, he’s solemnly
agreeing to “just” be a friend, though the rest of the evening ends in
disaster, and we wind up not being so sure about the winsomeness of
Chantal’s boyfriend, either.
Meanwhile, it seems that Chantry
is so categorically in denial about her own feelings for Wallace that we
wonder what sort of random spark is going to ignite their passion.
Their so-called couple friends actually try to
set this up for them, but that doesn’t go as planned, either.
When Chantry’s boyfriend suddenly decides to
accept an overseas assignment, after Chantry herself has specifically turned
down just such a promotion for his sake, finally this is where fate meets
just that that’s not without consequences, either, because now the
agreed-upon ground rules are suddenly no longer valid.
Those viewers who are fans of
the “Harry Potter” series will no doubt have difficulty seeing Daniel
Radcliffe and changing their perception of him, even as Radcliffe’s
character, in this movie, has difficulty changing his perception of Chantry,
as she has difficulty changing her perception of him.
“What If” is one of those
romantic comedies that’s not real big on the explicit romance or the
slapstick comedy. But
it tracks complex relationships that feel real, with characters that are
easy to empathize with, and does so in a kind of lighthearted, whimsical way
that draws in the viewer, despite dealing with all the ambiguities.
Or maybe even because of it.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,