Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The F Word

The F Word
Directed by Michael Dowse

Romantic comedies have been going down a different sort of path in recent years. Maybe it's because 'everything has been done before' or because people are tired of unrealistic situations and beautiful people falling in love. Whatever it is, our romantic comedies have become more quirky and less conventional. In this sense, The F Word succeeds.

On paper, Daniel Radcliffe seems an odd choice as a romantic lead. He's more defined as cute or adorable as opposed to Sexiest Man Alive. He's not that tall and is known to most of the world as Harry Potter and is still trying to prove his career outside of it. However, Radcliffe plays Wallace to a tee. A med school drop out and seems to be wandering aimlessly, especially when it comes to his relationships. He's living in the attic of his sister and her sons attic in Toronto. He meets Chantry, a cute and funny girl, at a party, while arranging worded fridge magnets into odd and depressing poems. He quickly falls for her charm and wit.

On the other hand, the role of Chantry seemed to be right up Zoe Kazan's alley. While not the typical leading lady look, this is not unlike the casting of hipster Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer, there is a point to this quirky, atypical beauty. As Chantry, she is quick-witted and quirky, but but her adorableness is what draws Wallace in. Too bad she's in a serious relationship. However, she's tired of guys not wanting to be friends with girls in relationships (it makes her feel like the only interesting thing about her is how she looks with her clothes off). She proposes friendship to Wallace, and, though Wallace is disappointed she's taken, he accepts defeat and they agree to be friends.

The plot, from here, is quite predictable. Wallace and Chantry become best friends. They have lunches together, go shopping together and email and call each other. And Chantry's boyfriend is even a pretty good guy. He works for the UN while she's an illustrator. They live together and seem very happy. However, Wallace's friend definitely ship him with Chantry, whereas Chantry's friends are asking why she's never introduced him to her single friends.

Not only were Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan great casting as separate entities, the reason the movie works as well as it does is because of the immaculate chemistry between Radcliffe and Kazan. It was so realistic and organic. Both Radcliffe and Kazan are naturally funny people, and they really bring that across together, while on screen. It felt like I was truly watching best friends up on screen. The laughter and the jokes felt natural and so much of the conversation felt real, and almost improv. They meshed so well, and I can see exactly why the casting directors made the choices they did. They have some of the best chemistry I've seen in a full-out romantic comedy in a while.

As well, the supporting characters are also well cast. Adam Driver as Wallace's best friend and as Chantry's cousin Allan is another unexpected casting, but again, works out incredibly. I remember feeling almost awkward just seeing the immense height different between Radcliffe and Driver in the trailer, but they have another interestingly, quirky bond that leaves that behind. Rafe Spall as Ben was another interesting choice. While it didn't seem work as well as Radcliffe, Kazan or Driver, Spall was much more calm and much less quirky. He seemed much older than Chantry and seemed a little out of place amongst everyone else. (Perhaps this is on purpose, I haven't decided). These 4 are the main players, though we do have an array of smaller, fun parts (including Allan's wonky girlfriend, Wallace's sister and her son, and Chantry's sister).

The movie, while much smarter than the average romantic comedy, does often pull cliche scenes and utter oft-used lines. We have Allan giving Wallace bad advice on how to deal with the Chantry situation, Chantry's sister is much different and much more sex driven (and tries it out on Wallace), and Wallace and Chantry too, find themselves in situations we've seen very similar versions of in other films (one standout being the dress-shopping scene). However, every so often it proves it's slightly above the average and responds to these cliche instances in different ways. I won't spoil anything for you, but Allan and Nicole pull a prank on Wallace and Chantry that is meant to push Wallace and Chantry together. It's not unlike those romcoms where the pair show up at a hotel and 'oops- we only have 1 bed, sorry!' and forces the pair to share, awkwardly. However, this time Chantry and Wallace respond with anger at their friends, and feel betrayed. It's not a cute moment, and you feel awkward with the characters.

To say The F Word is in any way ground-breaking would be utterly untrue. Most romantic comedies like smart people now, with smart language. And this movie is no different. Even the ending you can gather right from the beginning. But this film works because the characters are believable. To me, they never felt like unreal people. As well, it's always nice to see Toronto playing Toronto. It gives a different feel from your typical New York or LA film. To me, it had the right atmosphere and has enough artsy and hip locations that it makes sense with it's characters. While predictable, the film works and is definitely one I'd like to revisit several times.


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