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What If

Year: 2013
Production Co: No Trace Camping
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer: Elan Mastai/TJ Dawe/Michael Rinaldi
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Rafe Spall, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis

It's the very model of a meet cute rom com, exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to see Zoe Kazan show up in, but even though the structure and direction are pretty formulaic, there's enough good writing and points of difference from the rest of the pack to make it worth your while.

Daniel Radcliffe is sad sack Wallace, sworn off relationships the night he meets the perky-on-a-stick Chantry (Kazan). After a few more meetings Wallace can't help but feel the sparks of their connection, but then she drops the bombshell that she lives with her boyfriend, the seemingly perfect Ben (Rafe Spall).

Determined to be nothing more than a friend to Chantry, even though we know very well that he's hopelessly in love with her and just wants to be around her as much as possible, Wallace settles into the friend zone and tries to make himself comfortable.

It's not made any easier by his comic sidekick best friend Allan (Adam Driver, still jobbing it as the quirky support act in postmodern romance like this prior to Star Wars), who's all about bad advice, bad behaviour and who soon ends up stuck fast to his brassy new girlfriend Nicole (Mackenzie Davis).

The goings-on in the plot itself aren't terribly memorable, but the dialogue and set pieces do an effective job not just of conveying Wallace's confused state of mind as well as the well-trod boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl-over-misunderstanding, boy-finally-gets-girl-when-things-are-at-their-darkest template.

Ordinarily this would be the kind of vanilla-flavoured, first world problem-tinged genre piece about cynical white city-dwelling hipsters (I'm sure there was a token black guy in there somewhere), but Driver and Radcliffe have some genuinely funny scenes, and it seems to take enough asides that are more interesting than the usual romcom tropes but which also don't overstay their welcome. It's mostly forgettable and mostly enjoyable in equal measure.

But the most fascinating thing about it is Daniel Radcliffe's career trajectory. Rupert Grint's record picking projects was so bad after Harry Potter I used to think he was the one who'd descend into early obscurity (as he has), but Radcliffe seems to have had more than his fair share of little seen bombs. The adaptation of Joe Hill's Horns flopped completely, and there was a trailer some time in the last six months as I write this starring Radcliffe as a light plane pilot transporting drugs or something that I had to look up only to realise it had come out and epically tanked as well.

It reminds me of something I once read that a studio executive said about career advice she'd once got – that it's the seat that counts, not your arse. All the fans rabidly in love with Radcliffe by the end of Harry Potter slowly and inevitably realised they were Harry Potter (rather than Daniel Radcliffe) fans. He might not be interested in fame and he certainly doesn't need the money, but with Emma Watson still riding pretty high thanks to Disney, he's in danger of joining Grint in amongst the four figures on the IMDb StarMeter permanently.

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