Relationships between men and women make for great movie fodder. The romantic comedy may, in general, have an established set of rules, but audiences still flock to theaters to go see how a couple finally gets together. That isn't to say, however, that all romantic comedies are identical, and "What If" certainly falls into that somewhat different category.
The movie is the story of Wallace (Radcliffe) and Chantry (Kazan) and the blossoming of their relationship. The two meet at a party and, just when it seems like things might be going brilliantly, Wallace learns that Chantry has a boyfriend. They opt to just be friends and, as the movie progresses, the audience is left wondering if/when they will ever be more. There are clearly amorous feelings on Wallace's part—the story is told from his point of view—and while there are moments where it seems as though Chantry wants more, the audience might be left guessing as to her real intentions.
"What If" may position itself as asking the age-old "can men and women just be friends" question, and it does, but it manages to do so in a way that makes it fun and new. When HitFix had the opportunity to sit down with Radcliffe and Kazan to talk about the movie, it was about the ways in which the movie pushes those traditional boundaries for the genre that we discussed.
There is an argument to be made that the film takes place in a fantasy world, but for the stars, that is clearly not the case. For Radcliffe and Kazan, "What If" pushes the bounds of the romantic comedy as it is far more grounded in reality -- actions have consequences. That question of fantasy versus reality was no small part of our discussion.
"In most romantic comedies, the act of dropping everything and flying to Ireland suddenly unannounced would be enough to reconcile the situation," Radcliffe said, noting that here things are different. "In this film it just creates more problems, because it's a mental thing to do... there's something great about kind of being grounded in that reality where your decisions have consequences and they aren't always as idealized as you'd want them to be."
Kazan explained it this way, "In a lot of romantic comedies there's a montage that tell us, 'Oh, these two people are falling in love.'" However, "What If, according to her, is "The contents of that montage," it's about "Watching two people connect."
You can check out the contents of that montage in the coming weeks as "What If" is opening in select cities on August 8th and expanding nationally on August 22nd. It is based on the play "Toothpaste and Cigars" by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi.