The ad that I saw for What If described it as the best romantic comedy since 500 Days of Summer: unfortunately, What If has nothing of the humour and insight of 500 Days of Summer and in addition to being a bad mood, buys into some fairly horrible cultural narratives. But at least it makes Dublin look nice.
Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) is an English expat in Toronto searching for direction in life, living in his sister’s attic, when he meets Chantry (because of course she’s named Chantry – Zoe Kazan.) Although he immediately fancies her, she lets him know immediately that she has a boyfriend and is just interested in friendship. Although he still likes her, he agrees.
There’s been a lot of feminist commentary on the internet about the idea of the Nice Guy TM, but I’ll leave it at: being friends with a woman just to possibly enter a relationship with her in the future is a bad plan, which tends to result in a damaged friendship and no relationship. While at least the movie portrays that Wallace genuinely enjoys Chantry’s friendship, it adheres a little too close to the idea that ignoring a friend who tells you that she’s genuinely just interested in friendship and rejecting any chance of moving on pays off eventually. What made 500 Days of Summer so interesting what that the love interest was allowed to actually stand her ground when she said she didn’t want a long-term relationship, which became a movie about how much we see our partners as a reflection of ourselves, rather than who they really are. What If seems to be more about the idea that honest communication is far from essential in developing a relationship. Imagine a romantic comedy which didn’t end with Chantry realising that she’d been “lying to herself” and really loved Wallace all along?
In case the names didn’t warn you, it’s also a bit hipster: Chantry and her friends meet to knit, her career is an animator, and she hangs out at ping pong bars, traits that fit right into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl cliche. But I did like that the movie is set in Toroto (as almost all movies of this type take place in New York and LA) and when the characters visit Dublin, it made me homesick. Even though they seem to visit the only pub in central Dublin where there are more than enough seats on a Friday night, with no danger of someone spilling their pint on you. I also liked that they let Radcliffe be British without explanation. As an expat myself, it’s nice to see a movie recognise that not every character needs to be a native of the city they dwell in. But really, none of that is enough for me to recommend this film at all.
Since this film takes place in Toronto, I took a page from my favourite Canadian baker, Anna Olson, and whipped up a batch of her classic chocolate chip cookies. Simple but delicious!
Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Food Network Canada)
115g unsalted butter
110g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
160g plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Chocolate chips to taste
Cream together butter and sugar.
Mix in eggs and vanilla.
Sift in dry ingredients. Mix in chocolate chips.
Place about a tablespoon of dough onto a greased cookie pan. Chill dough for an hour.
Bake at 160C for about 12 to 15 minutes (until golden brown.)
What If is playing in cinemas now.