Blu-ray Review Comedy

Purely Platonic Blu-ray Review: The F Word

November 26, 2014Ben Mk


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Friends without benefits...

When people think of romantic comedies, they generally think of films that appeal exclusively to the female demographic. And while that's definitely true more often than not, once in a while a movie comes along that surprises us. Take, for example, The F Word, a film which presents both a male and a female perspective on a topic members of both genders can relate to, in which Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan star as a couple of characters who seem destined to be together, if not for one tiny problem — they're stuck in "the friend zone".

   

The Film Radcliffe plays Wallace, a med school dropout who spends mundane days toiling away at a job writing software user manuals and lonely nights sitting on his roof, contemplating his status as a single twenty-something. It's been over a year since Wallace split with his girlfriend, Megan (Sarah Gadon), after he caught her cheating on him, and he still hasn't gotten over it.

Enter Chantry (Kazan), a talented and soulful animator. She and Wallace strike up a conversation at a party — over, of all things, his cynical fridge magnet poetry — and by the end of the night he's walking her back to her house. Things seem to be looking up, romantically-speaking, but then she drops the bomb. It turns out that Chantry already has a live-in boyfriend, international copyright lawyer Ben (Rafe Spall), and she's only looking to be friends.

Dissuaded, Wallace is all but ready to surrender the notion that the two of them could ever be romantically linked. But when he and Chantry start casually spending time together, he realizes that will be easier said than done. Likewise, Chantry begins to wonder if Wallace might be a better match for her than Ben, who seems preoccupied with furthering his career. And when a work-related opportunity opens up for Ben in Dublin, he seizes it, leaving Chantry on her own to figure things out with Wallace.

Making the situation even more complicated are Wallace and Chantry's inner circle of friends: Chantry's sister, Dalia (Megan Park), who's just gone through a breakup of her own and has her sights set on Wallace as her rebound fling; and Wallace's roommate, Allan (Adam Driver), who also happens to be Chantry's cousin, and his girlfriend, Nicole (Mackenzie Davis), whose relationship bliss causes Wallace to rethink his own dating ethos.

Penned by Elan Mastai and adapted from the play Toothpaste and Cigars, by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi, the script creates ample opportunity for moon-eyed fawning and long-distance navel-gazing. And indeed, that's how many of its scenes play out, with, for example, an innocuous shopping trip for the pair ending in a will-they-or-won't-they smooch-standoff. But despite the film's tendencies to dive head-first into a veritable ocean of rom-com clichés, Radcliffe, Kazan and the rest of the extremely likeable cast make it work, due in no small part to their off-the-charts chemistry and quirky, earnest and endearing performances.

The film also serves as a showcase for the city of Toronto, and the scenes shot in and around local landmarks — such as the boardwalk along Harbourfront, The Royal Cinema and The George Street Diner, which plays an especially prominent role in proceedings — conjure up an air of magic, akin to the New York City scenery in Woody Allen's Annie Hall.

That's not to say that The F Word exists on the same plateau as Allen's iconic 1977 film — which is arguably one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made and the movie that's been most influential upon this current trend of meet-cute filmmaking — but it does possess a certain sense of self-assuredness and whimsicality that dares you not to like it, even though this is the kind of storytelling we've all seen before.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Being the romantic comedy that it is, viewers should know not to expect anything particularly dazzling, in terms of The F Word's audio and visuals. That being said, you can't really go wrong with the film's A/V presentation on Blu-ray. Cinematographer Rogier Stoffers fills the frame with picturesque shots of its cast and its Toronto setting, and the hi-def transfer returns the favor, with an appreciable amount of fine detail and the presence of a moderate amount of film grain, lending the image a nice texture and a pleasantly filmic quality. Otherwise, black levels are good (although they appear to vary slightly, occasionally looking a bit washed out), contrast is punchy and colors are robust and well-saturated. Audio-wise, the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack makes easy work of the film's generally nondescript rom-com soundstage. Dialogue comes through with the utmost clarity, and the movie receives a welcome boost from time to time, thanks to musical accompaniment from The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman (as well as songs from a handful of indie artists).

Special Features Entertainment One's Blu-ray release includes 26 minutes of HD special features, as well as an audio commentary by director Michael Dowse and screenwriter Elan Mastai. The commentary track is fairly informative and engaging, with the pair discussing a range of topics, from the film's history and development to details concerning its production, including musical choices, alterations made for the U.S. market and the original ending. At one point, they're even joined by actress Megan Park via speakerphone.

As for the rest of the bonus features, the most substantial is the 18-minute The Making of The F Word, which is more or less your standard making-of featurette, divided into seven chapters ("Making the Modern Romantic Comedy", "The Script", "The Location", "The Characters", "Production", "Ireland" and "The Wrap"). There's also the 2-minute On the Red Carpet, which catches up with Dowse and a few of the cast members on the red carpet at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival; 3 minutes of Interviews with Daniel Radcliffe & Zoe Kazan, in which the two actors discuss such things as their favorite thing about Canada and their stances on relationship advice; and 4 minutes of Deleted Scenes, consisting of 3 scenes in total.


The Bottom Line Although the film has been "sanitized" and rechristened What If for the American market, the filmmakers' original intentions are faithfully upheld by Entertainment One's Blu-ray release of The F Word. Not only is the film charming and quirky, but by wholeheartedly embracing the material and imparting their own unique perspective on it, director Michael Dowse and screenwriter Elan Mastai have created something that rises above the banality of typical rom-com fare. Likewise, the Blu-ray doesn't disappoint, offering superb audio and video, as well as a smattering of bonus features, not the least of which is a feature-length commentary not available on any other release of the film. If you've ever been stuck in "the friend zone" — and who hasn't? — you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  





* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on August 22nd, 2014.




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