A few years ago the romantic comedy seemed like it was on life support, suffering from a bad case of the Katherine Heigls. The once proud genre had succumbed to predictability with witless stories and characters direct from Central Casting. The term rom com became an anti-selling point to audiences tired of the same old Barrymore Method© rom com design—unlikely couple meets, falls in love, overcomes obstacles, breaks up and… well, I’m not going to give away the ending but if you don’t know it already then either you don’t have a romantic bone in your body or you’ve never seen a Drew Barrymore (or Kristen Bell or Kate Hudson or Jennifer Aniston) movie.
Then, little by little, filmmakers began to chip away at the formula, making rom coms with a twist. There was a “Warm Bodies,” a zombie rom com and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s one-two punch “500 Days of Summer” and “Don Jon,” among others. Now there’s “The F Word,” a fresh and funny take on romance and the nature of love.
Called “What If” in the United States where the “F Word” title was seen as too salacious, (in the movie the “F” stands for friend), it’s the story of Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), a loser in love who meets Chandry (Zoe Kazan), the girl of his dreams, at a party. She’s charming, pretty, funny and has a live-in boyfriend. Like Harry and Sally before them, they must discover if men and women can just be friends.
Enchanting, whimsical and sweet are words I could use to describe “The F Word,” and the film earns each and every one, but it is also more than that.
Director Michael Dowse doesn’t allow the tone to get sugary and slip into saccharine mode. He’s aided by a smart and funny script by Elan Mastai, but it’s Radcliffe and Kazan that draw us in. The pair has chemistry to burn and their conversations have a ring of truth that doesn’t feel contrived or rom commy.
They’re supported by an able cast, including Megan Park in a star-making turn as Chantry’s promiscuous sister and “Girl’s” alum Adam Driver as Wallace’s best friend Allan.
“The F Word” is a persuasive attempt to reclaim the rom com from the Barrymore Method© and bring back the golden years when Harry could still meet Sally without all the annoying Heiglisms in between.