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Friday, 08 August 2014 19:32

Director Michael Dowse on the Art of the Romantic Comedy

Written by  Thea Green
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Making Harry meet Sally is no easy feat: romantic comedies are a tough genre to tackle in a way that feels fresh and fun.

Reviewers are already praising Michael Dowse directed What If, however, for its strength in just those things. A recent interview with Dowse in Broadway elaborated on his reasons for selecting the script and his take on the material. 

Dowse, who recently directed comedies like Goon and Take Me Home Tonight decided to take on a true romantic comedy when he found a script he could get behind. “I read the script, and loved it,” he said. “I mean, I was literally doing reshoots for Goon, and was looking to do something completely different for my next project. I had been a big fan of the genre, and I think it's just if you can nail that particular genre, it can be one of those perennial films that people just watch every year. So, after reading the script, I thought we had a chance to make a film that could sort of enter into that cannon. So, I was excited to make it, and it was a conscious decision to make something that was a little kinder and gentler.

Elan Mastai’s script, which is based on the stage play Toothpaste and Cigars written by T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi, was dialogue and performance heavy, allowing for longer and freer takes. “For me, it was a lot about the performances,” Dowse mentioned. “I started as an editor, and I'm always a bit of a coverage monkey, in terms of making sure that I've covered every (camera) angle possible. In this one, I really just tried to let the actors live within the frame, and tried to capture things in two shots, and in one long take. And just let the actors act, and not try to build it all with editing. And that was a big take away for me as a director, and something that I am trying to work on on set; just having faith in the performances and knowing that we have it here within one shot, and we don't need to cut it. We can walk away from this, and it's awesome.”

Dowse believes that the simplicity of the story is what makes it shine. “There wasn't crazy shenanigans; and it was just a very simple story, there's a beauty in simplicity, because everyone can relate to it, and it's very honest. And I thought it equated to a lovely, emotional payoff at the end, where you're really rooting for these two people to get together, because they've made you laugh, you care about them, because nobody's been an asshole in the process.”

What If, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, opens in theaters today, August 8. (



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