What If director Michael Dowse thinks that the film could become a perennial film for the current generation.
“It has a unique voice that first and foremost is funny and I like how Elan uses the lead characters’ shared sense of humor to actually create and fuel the romance,” Dowse says of the Black List screenplay written by Elan Mastai. “For me, any time you’re trying to flirt with somebody, or get in their pants, it’s about comedy. That’s sort of the road to that. So I think it’s a smart and very realistic way of bringing these people together. They share a sort of sardonic outlook and sarcasm and they make each other laugh to make the audience laugh, and that buys a lot of empathy for the characters.”
This is the first romantic comedy for the director. Even though he never directed a romantic comedy until What If, he’s appreciated the genre and couldn’t miss the chance to direct one.
“It’s a great genre but it has been maligned by films that were either too saccharine, too hipsterish or just not funny enough,” Dowse says. “Still, I think it has a rich history of sorts with films like When Harry Met Sally, The Apartment, or Manhattan where these films can be very witty and very funny and also extremely romantic. When you hit that sweet spot with this genre, it can become a timeless classic, a film people watch on Valentine’s Day.”
Could What If be the next romantic comedy that breaks out and resonates as a classic for a generation?
“The performances, the script, the comedy and the unique visuals in the film put us in contention,” Dowse says.
Daniel Radcliffe is already a successful star, having starred in the Harry Potter series. Will his playing the leading role help connect with audiences and the classic rom-com tropes?
“What we’re seeing in this film is sort of the emergence of a new leading man,” says Dowse. “This is a guy who’s had a lot of success as a teenager, and well deserved, but now he’s all grown up, and I think he’s ready to take that next step, and he’s amazing.”
It was not until after Radcliffe signed on that producers screened Ruby Sparks. This led to the casting of Zoe Kazan.
“Zoe has a great physicality to her that I love,” says Dowse. “She’s really funny and smart. She’s also a screenwriter so she understands the story and process of making a film. There is some great improv that happens between Dan and Zoe that I think audiences will find really funny.”
Time will tell.