Monday, August 11, 2014

What If [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

While I would have rated the film R for content (the film really is for the college age to mid-twenties crowd, not for young teens) the lovely, well written and superbly acted Rom-Com What If [2013] (directed by Michael Dowse, screenplay by Elan Mastai, based on the stage play by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi) offers a surprisingly good message regarding friendship, relationships and the value of marriage (yes, "even in our day" ...).

Why?  Well both of the film's central protagonists Wallace (played by former "Harry Potter" Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (played by one of my favorite young actresses Zoe Kazan, I loved her in Ruby Sparks [2012]) experienced during the course of the film the pitfalls of being "involved with someone" without getting married:

Wallace finds himself rather brutally dumped at the beginning of the film by a girlfriend, Nicole (played by Mackenzie Davis), who in her mind apparently thought herself to be "trading up."  Chantry, on the other hand, spends _most of the duration of the film_ living "together" (for 5 years apparently) with her boyfriend Ben (played by Rafe Spall) who it becomes increasingly obvious loves, above all, his job:

There's a scene in the film where the Chantry and Ben are together in a restaurant where he begins talking about how long they've been together and "grown together" ... and so on and so forth.  Yet, when he practically drops on his knees, it's NOT to propose, but to tell her that he got a _really good job offer for a 6 month assignment in _another part of the world_ (in Dublin, Ireland though they live and the film plays out mostly in Toronto, Canada).  She herself, an cartoon animator, had turned down a promotion if only she would be willing to relocate FOR THE SAKE OF THE RELATIONSHIP.  But Ben takes a different path ...

This is "a flag" folks ...

So while Ben goes off to Dublin, Wallace and Chantry, who previously met at a party and despite obviously hitting it off very well, agree to remain "just friends."  Yet how long can the two be just friends when it is obvious that they are each other's true Significant Others?  One doesn't have an S.O. and the other's "S.O." is an ocean away "pursuing HIS thing ..."

Folks the one irritant that I do have in this film is the "faux fidelity" that's being defended here, for a while, until it collapses under its own weight.  Chantry and Ben WERE NOT MARRIED.  It was more or less obvious that Ben WASN'T INTERESTED IN GETTING MARRIED.  So ... honestly THERE WAS NO "FIDELITY" TO HONOR / DEFEND.  Living together is NOT "just like marriage."  It isn't.  By it's nature it is still temporary and largely consequence-LESS.  If one or the other decides to "pick-up sticks" and leave, THE OTHER HAS NO RECOURSE but to take it.

So women ... if you're living with a guy in HIS HOUSE, APARTMENT OR FLAT and HE DECIDES HE'S DONE WITH YOU, yes, YOU STAND TO BE OUT ON THE STREET and THERE'S NOTHING THAT YOU CAN REALLY DO ABOUT IT.  On the other hand, if you're serious enough to buy property together, for goodness sake, would it not be just easier to get married?  At minimum, YOU'D SAVE THE NEEDLESS / EXTRA LAWYER FEES...

There was actually an excellent recent Czech film (that probably no one in the States will now see, as it toured through here this summer and is now gone) called Like Never (orig. Jako Nikdy) [2013] that was largely about exactly this: A woman in her 40s who had been living for many years with a significantly OLDER artist but had never gotten married to him was now watching him die and realizing that when he dies, she's going end up on the street, because EVERYTHING SUBSTANTIAL (the house in particular) was IN HIS NAME and he had no intention of changing this EVEN AS HE WAS DYING.  (And legally, there was NOTHING that she could do about it).

The current movie offers a similar message giving YOUNG PEOPLE a great reminder that (1) relationships OUGHT TO BEGIN AS FRIENDSHIPS (or else what do you really have in common TO BUILD ON?) and (2) THERE IS SIMPLY NO (_EASY_) SUBSTITUTE TO MARRIAGE. Until one is married one's relationship with another is by definition precarious and based on good will.  And if it falls apart, one has no legal recourse but to suck it up, pack one's bags and move on.

In marriage one _does_ have legal rights that have to be respected EVEN IF THE MARRIAGE FALLS APART.  (And this is actually _exactly_ why homosexuals have been petitioning for the right to marry as well).  Outside of marriage there are no protections if one's partner decides FOR WHATEVER REASON to (in his/her mind) "get a better deal elsewhere."

Great and sobering film (even amidst the laughs)!

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