Sunday, February 15, 2015
Valentine's Days with Zoe Kazan
In the tradition of classic posts like "Father's Days with Richard Linklater," The Audient proudly presents "Valentine's Days with Zoe Kazan." We hope you enjoy it.
I don't know if it's her heart-shaped face or what, but we have spent each of our last two Valentine's Days with Zoe Kazan.
Last year I chose Valentine's Day as the time to expose my wife to my favorite movie of 2012, Ruby Sparks, which Kazan wrote and in which she stars. I might have been planning that particular viewing for a couple weeks, and made heart-shaped meatloaf to accompany it.
This year, Kazan's involvement in our Valentine's Day viewing was considerably more accidental. After I flamed out in an attempt to borrow romantic movies from the library -- I interpreted Anna Karenina as an appropriate choice, and am embarrassed I don't know more about the story -- I turned to good old iTunes as an option.
Actually, I'm lying a bit about the sequence of events. I didn't realize I'd flamed out on my choices (which also included Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and an inarguably romantic movie we'd both already seen, Moulin Rouge!) until after I'd already downloaded this week's 99 cent rental, which was on my list of movies to see in time for my 2014 rankings. And only after starting to download it did I recognize it as a good match for Valentine's Day (which is why Apple made it this week's 99 cent rental in the first place, I'm sure).
What If is one of about three different 2014 Zoe Kazan romantic comedies which, on their surface, might be easily confused for one another. In fact, if I'd seen any more than one of them I surely would have written a post about Kazan's ubiquitousness in 2014 indie romantic comedies. The others are The Pretty One (which I did see but did not like) and In Your Eyes (which is actually described as a "paranormal romance"). What If turns out to be the straight romantic comedy in the bunch. (One hopes it was the success of Ruby Sparks that got her these roles, in kind of the same way Matrix fans enjoy seeing Matrix knockoffs -- it confers a certain significance to the movie that I'm still hoping the larger world will retroactively assign to Ruby.)
There's nothing high concept in What If like there is in Ruby Sparks, but it also goes down more easily if your desire is not to be too challenged by your romantic movie. It's basically the story of a med school dropout (Daniel Radcliffe) who has been burned by love enough that he approaches every new potential romantic entanglement with wariness and cynicism. Until he meets the plucky Chantry (Kazan), whose only fault is that she already has a serious boyfriend (Rafe Spall) of five years. However, the two enjoy each other's company enough that they fall into the "friend zone," that relationship purgatory that they have varying degrees of interest in trying to escape. Advising them on their lives and decisions are a group of best friend types, who include Adam Driver and Megan Ward.
Pretty standard, right? But What If is elevated by intelligent dialogue and winning performances. The characters feel pretty fleshed out, and the scenarios they find themselves in give you good doses of both comedy and romance. One particularly nice moment on the latter front involves Kazan's character getting stuck while trying on a dress that's just barely too small for her. She's stuck at the point that the thing is mostly pulled off, but it's covering her eyes and she can't move in either direction at this point. She summons Radcliffe's character (Wallace) to the changing room to help with the emergency, but doesn't want him to see her bra and panties so requires him to close his eyes. It's a nice and tender scene. (I also like the fact that when she first calls out to him, he's checking his phone. I like movies that take the time to get the details right. If you're waiting for a female friend to try on a dress, you check your phone. It doesn't mean you're some kind of self-obsessed boob or that you can't devise more idealized ways of passing the time.)
So it was quite a lovely way to pass a Valentine's Day that also featured our favorite delivery pizza, beer, and ice cream treats on sticks to finish off the evening.
If it's still Valentine's Day where you are, enjoy this Valentine to you in the form of Zoe Kazan's heart-shaped face: