Making the Grades
Like many young adults, Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) has had his share of relationship breakups. But after finding his last girlfriend canoodling in the closet with her professor, Wallace has sworn off love and inexplicably dropped out of medical school. Nearly a year later, he still hasn’t erased her apologetic phone message. (That’ll leave many viewers wondering if he isn’t as anti-romance as he wants to appear.)
Then at a friend’s house party, Wallace meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan). Almost instantly the quirky animator intrigues him and he offers to walk her home. That’s when he discovers she has a boyfriend, or at least she says she has a boyfriend. (For much of the first act of the movie, the audience is also left wondering if the “boyfriend” is merely a way to keep Wallace at a distance.) Yet despite her claim of being in a committed relationship, Chantry willingly meets Wallace for lunch, drinks and other outings. She does it in the context of friendship—that dreaded f-word for a man with something else on his mind.
Wallace tries to convince himself he’s okay with just being chums, but it’s evident he is interested in Chantry in other ways. Part of Wallace’s problem may be that he takes his relationship advice from his best friend Allan (Adam Driver), a foul-mouthed sex addict who considers a big plate of nachos to be the ultimate ending to a evening of passionate copulation.
To make a romantic comedy work, the audience has to buy into the drama that keeps the couple apart. In this case it is Ben (Rafe Spall). Yes, spoiler alert, Chantry does have a boyfriend that stands between them. Also, the potential pair needs to have a little chemistry—something that is sadly missing here. And finally viewers have to want the characters to get together, in spite of any odds. Unfortunately these elements are in short supply in this script.
From the start, Chantry makes it clear she only wants to be friends. Yet she vacillates like a bobble head when her younger sister Dalia (Megan Park) begins to show some romantic interest in Wallace. Meanwhile, neither Chantry nor Wallace can commit to anything, be it school, career or each other. So rather than yearning for them to get together, I’m convinced this emotionally shallow duo deserves to be together—if only to save anyone else from becoming involved with either one of them.
As well, this sexually-laden film is packed with a profusion of profanities, some nudity and frequent scenes of drinking. Although it raises the age-old question of whether a man and a woman can just be friends, getting a fair answer appears impossible since most of the depicted twenty-somethings can only equate a male/female relationship with sex. So despite sitting through this movie, you’ll still be left to wonder what if there are benefits to having friends that aren’t friends with benefits?
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about What If (The F Word).
One female character says that all girls want is a “guy that doesn’t make us feel like crap.” What does this comment say about her past relationships? Is this statement reflective of her sense of personal worth? Should women rely on men to make them feel good about themselves? Can a person control how others treat them? What is your best advice for a woman or man who is in a negative relationship?
Wallace says that being in love is only an excuse to lie, cheat and hurt other people. How did his parents’ example affect the way he feels about love? How can other people color our own views about relationships?
This script appears to equate love with sex. Is there more to a healthy and committed relationship that simply sex? What things would be important for you to have in a long-term relationship?