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Witty 'What If' offers a new take on an old issue

Twenty-five years ago, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan debated whether a man can be friends with a woman he is attracted to in “When Harry Met Sally.” Now Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are here to revisit the question in “What If.”
Josh Terry, Deseret News Modified: August 14, 2014 at 9:41 pm •  Published: August 15, 2014
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Twenty-five years ago, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan debated whether a man can be friends with a woman he is attracted to in “When Harry Met Sally.” Their ultimate conclusion was no, but Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are here to revisit the question in “What If,” a romantic comedy that either suggests that we haven’t learned much over the last three decades or that relationships between men and women are always going to be complicated.

Radcliffe plays Wallace, a med school dropout who is living with his sister in Toronto and neglecting his social life. One night, he drags himself out to a party with his best friend Allan (Adam Driver), who promptly hooks up with the love of his life. Wallace meets a fantastic girl named Chantry (Kazan), but she just happens to have a boyfriend. Isn’t that how things usually go?

Once Chantry drops the word “boyfriend,” Wallace writes her off, tossing her phone number into the wind as he sits mournfully on his sister’s rooftop. But fate intervenes at a late-night screening of “The Princess Bride,” and before long, Wallace and Chantry are neck-deep in a contemporary experiment in platonic male-female friendship.

What follows is just unpredictable enough to remain interesting, and some clever writing from Elan Mastai gives director Michael Dowse’s film a big boost. “What If” probably won’t be giving “When Harry Met Sally” a run for its money on anyone’s all-time list, but it does do a good job of encapsulating the highs, lows and confusing in-betweens of dating in 2014. (Though, thankfully, it avoids the kind of emphasis on texting and other technology that would date it in 10 years or so.)

While Wallace and Chantry’s relationship remains ambiguous to them, everyone else in their lives can see the writing on their wall. Allan and his girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife Nicole (Mackenzie Davis) plot to get the budding lovebirds together, while Chantry’s sister Dalia (Megan Park) plots to use Wallace for her own devious needs.

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