Two hipsters meet at a party. Both are a bit awkward but in an appealingly cutesy, rather than “bust-stop weirdo”, way. They have an instant connection. She already has a boyfriend. Indie soundtrack and twee animations ensue.
It’s so easy to be dismissive of What If, a movie that tries incredibly hard to present itself as the new 500 Days of Summer (the hipster rom-com of choice for anybody with a vinyl player and a pair of square-framed specs).
For starters, it stars Daniel Radcliffe, who for all his stubble and facial dexterity is no Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s not that Radcliffe is terrible, but rather that he seems to miss the beat his co-stars are hitting. Comedy just doesn’t fit him, and he ends up standing out for the wrong reasons.
Elan Mastai’s script is another problem. It aims for Gilmore Girls-style rapid-fire dialogue but lacks any of the wit, observation and character. Instead we get normalised Internet-speak and a lot more talk of poo than you’d expect outside a junior-school playground. Plus there’s an interesting debate about infidelity hovering over this plot that is only ever poked at. A shame.
Add the hipster trappings – the leads are called Wallace and Chantry, for crying out loud – and the result is something so irritating you want to lock it up in a rockabilly boutique until it hangs itself with a scarf.
Thankfully, Ruby Sparks star Zoe Kazan as Chantry is the right Zooey Deschanel mix of girl next door and liberated woman, and delivers her lines with all the zest and conviction lacking in her romantic interest.
Some of the lines are zingers (“I can’t be dealing with you finger-combing my wisps”) and there are a few genuinely surprising, laugh-out-loud moments, such as Rafe Spall and a window, or the head bridesmaid’s speech at a wedding.
The supporting cast lift the material with their commitment, and director Michael Dowse keeps things running along with admirable energy – but, it must be said, he does like to blast music over every scene like a petulant teenager blocking out his parents. But hey, there’s the Spotify playlist to think about.
At best, What If is an enticing ad for Canada’s tourism board. It looks great, despite the intermittent animated girl with wings flying over buildings. It’s not 500 Days of Summer (not that that film was perfect, either) but it does have its good points.
However, if you’re not a fan of Daniel Radcliffe and you like your rom-coms less noisy and attention-seeking, there are funnier, more romantic films out there for you.
Released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 20 August 2014.