Tuesday, 2 September 2014

REVIEW - WHAT IF (MICHAEL DOWSE)


It's a common middle-class problem: the complacency which an upbringing amid affluence can lead to as an adult, failing to acknowledge and thus shunning one's responsibilities, clinging onto one's memories of simple student life. That clinging is rendered as quaint nostalgia in Michael Dowse's lame rom-com What If, whose central characters all are afflicted by it, yet affluent themselves, confident and successful. It's a naff fantasy, and it makes these people's pitiful woes seem so insufferable. What If assumes it's upending the rom-com genre somewhat by supposedly emphasising the friendship between the romantic leads. But their relationship is defined throughout as one characterised by its potential for romance, and thus we must endure an elongated sequence of courtship without any actual courting. It'd be an interesting twist were it not for the fact that Elan Mastai's script constantly regresses into meet-cute scenarios and dialogue, effectively providing us with the full exposition of a couple's early days, and truncating it with the detail that it can only stagnate, since they're refused any opportunity to solve their situation. And that doesn't make sense, not that this coy awkwardness can survive for so long. Indeed, much in Mastai's script doesn't make sense, even down to strange little details (the whole 'Europe is not a continent' thing is just odd), and especially limp humour. Actually, on that front, What If isn't a total misfire, and this is what rescues it from the depths of the dreck it threatens to plumb. Daniel Radcliffe has a beguiling knack for easy comic characterisation, and Mackenzie Davis is a fabulous spark of energy in a supporting role. Their mildly, pleasantly caustic vibe chafes against the self-satisfied quirkiness of Dowse's deeply middle-class, middle-brow film, and terrifically so. But, on the whole, What If is otherwise lacking in any such sparks.