Daniel Radcliffe plays Wallace, a medical school dropout, recovering from a recent breakup. However his life changes in an instance when meeting the equally – and endearingly – clumsy Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a party. Though instantly drawn to the talented illustrator, Wallace is left disheartened upon learning that Chantry has a long-term boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall), and so begrudgingly, yet dutifully agrees to be just friends. However the more time the pair spend in one another’s company, the stronger their feelings become – enhanced when their mutual friends Allan (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Mackenzie Davis) attempt to bring them together, which threatens to jeopardise their special bond.
As with any film of this nature, it’s imperative that we’re able to fully invest in, and root for the romance at hand. However in this instance it’s something of a struggle, because you can’t help but feel for poor old Ben. For a film full to the brim of cliches, affectionately conventional of the genre at hand, the one element you feel was missed out – and detrimentally so – is that Ben simply isn’t painted out in enough of a bad light, whereas you want him to be the antagonist of the piece. That’s not to say Dowse doesn’t attempt to portray Ben in such a way, he just fails to do so effectively. Yes, Ben may say a couple of untoward comments to Wallace, but c’mon, the dude is trying to chat up his girlfriend, can you blame him? There’s one sequence when Chantry calls up her dear boyfriend when she’s drunk, getting frisky and carelessly disregarding the differing time zones. She’s all like, “I’m horny”, and he’s all like “I can’t speak right now – I’m in a hugely important United Nations meeting, which they’ve paid a lot of money for me to fly to Dublin for”. And she’s like “Oh no, he just doesn’t care about me, it’s not working”. Now, in spite of the director’s best efforts to display a lack of affection and tenderness in their relationship, if anything Ben should be commended for even picking up his phone. Most sane people would have left it on airplane mode.
What also doesn’t help matters, is that Spall is inherently likeable, and perhaps miscast in this particular role. The same can’t be said of the leading duo, however, who share a palpable chemistry and an awkwardness that makes for authentic, comical dialogue, particularly when they first meet and conversation is naturally somewhat contrived and uncomfortable at times. Radcliffe epitomises this notion, and he can be accused of sometimes being too self-conscious, and is often guilty of an actor’s worst sin; to seem aware of the camera (especially evident in his listening face). Yet in this instance it doesn’t matter at all, and if anything, actually improves the picture, as it suits the nature of the role. As with any accomplished film of this ilk, the leading duo revel in the romance, while the supporting cast are left to thrive in the more comedic aspects, and this duty is passed over to the ever reliable Driver, who stands out, yet sadly isn’t used to his full potential, with not quite enough screen time.
Nonetheless, and in spite of the misgivings, there is a certain charm about this picture, and Dowse walks that very delicate tightrope you get in quirky films such as this, between being affable and unbearable. Sadly, this deals more predominantly in the latter, like when Wallace sits on his roof to have some alone time, pensively contemplating life and all its foibles as he looks out into the starry, night sky. Then he theatrically chucks Chantry’s number into the air, but it gets caught in a bush, and the cutesy picture she drew of herself then comes to life off the page. See what I mean? It delves into that territory in a few, unwanted occasions. With little risk taken, here is a film you’ve seen a million times before, and sadly, will see a million times again.