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National
Review: 'What If'
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Review: 'What If'

Review: 'What If'
Sparks fly between Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) in “What If.”

Review: 'What If'

"What If" brings up the distinctions among wit, jokes and robotic banter, and this new romantic comedy has a bit of the first and a few of the second, but it's largely a case of the third.

The script, adapted by Elan Mastai from the play "Toothpaste and Cigars," does a few things right. It affords the female characters a decent 50 percent stake in the action. It allows for some ambiguity and edge and doesn't beg for the audience's sympathy, even though the outcome is never in doubt. Spoiler alert: "What If" does not end with anybody getting killed.

But the best rom-coms have an easy-breathing way about them, even when the talk is fast, as it so rarely is in the movies these days. Here the pulse rate's high — neurotically peppy. We sense potential in the early meeting, at a party, of med-school dropout Wallace, played by Daniel Radcliffe, and animator Chantry, played by Zoe Kazan. The banter's tightly wound, self-deprecating and gently needling in equal measure. They play with fridge magnet poetry. They suss out each other's reasons for being at the party. Wallace is instantly smitten; Chantry may be too.

A romantic trapped in an emotional turtle shell, Wallace has yet to recover from a bad breakup. Chantry lives with her vaguely controlling boyfriend (Rafe Spall), so despite the Certain Special Something in the air between Chantry and Wallace, they agree to become friends, not lovers. The prospect of more hangs over them, always.

From there "What If" contrives the usual reasons for the leads to come together, a bit, over the course of a year, then run to their respective corners, while the side characters have the fun. Wallace's pal Allan (Adam Driver) has a new love (Mackenzie Davis). Chantry's lippy younger sister (Megan Park) sees Wallace as a possible one-off for herself. This is "When Harry Met Sally" territory relocated to Toronto, which means the streets are cleaner.

Why did the film's charms elude me? I felt arm-twisted by "What If," for all its tossed-off verbiage and wisecracking. Radcliffe has loads of charm but very little in the way of a relaxed and natural comic range. I find Kazan pleasant and skillful and interestingly off-center in her timing, and she's physically looser than the average rom-com lead. Yet without sufficiently interesting material the stars' efforts feel, well, effortful.

On the other hand: If there's a teenager in your house interested in seeing it, I'd say sure, don't discourage her or him. At least "What If" is about young adults groping toward some sort of relational wisdom. It may not be very good, but there are no Transformers in it.

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  • Responding to concerns about personal security for lawmakers after last week’s gun attack at a Congressional baseball practice, U.S. House leaders are moving to provide extra money to members for protection back home, as well as new funding to bolster the work of police and security officials on Capitol Hill. Under a plan approved by a House spending subcommittee on Friday, the Congress would provide an extra $7.5 million next year to the Capitol Police for an “increased security posture” around the Capitol, along with $5 million to the House Sergeant at Arms to help with security for lawmakers back in their districts. “We are taking a new fresh look at security,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the Chairman of subcommittee that deals with funding for the Legislative Branch. Our FY18 Legislative Branch funding bill increases efficiency & transparency in Congress, enhances security for Members & our constituents. pic.twitter.com/FI36tF2XeH — Rep. Kevin Yoder (@RepKevinYoder) June 22, 2017 “The tragic events of June 14 weigh heavily on these deliberations,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which could vote on the extra money as early as this next week. Also being put into motion is a separate plan to funnel an extra $25,000 to each member of the House – about $11 million in all – to help them increase security back in their districts. “The scariest part for us is there used to be this impression by the public that we all had security everywhere we went,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). “Now, everyone knows that isn’t the case,” Ryan added, as he lent his support to the extra funding for security as well. The money in this budget bill would not take effect until the new fiscal year – which starts October 1 – so, House leaders are ready to okay extra money immediately for members worried about security back in their districts. Roll Call newspaper reported that could be approved in coming days by the House Administration Committee. Yoder said Congressional leaders are also waiting to see if money raised in campaign contributions for House elections could be put to use for security as well. “Pending an FEC (Federal Election Commission) decision, we’re also looking at whether campaign funds could be used to continue to support security upgrades at personal residences,” Yoder added.
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