Review: The F Word (TIFF 2013)
PLOT: Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) thinks he's met the girl of his dreams after a chance encounter with Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a party. He's devastated to learn that she has a boyfriend, but the two nonetheless become friends. As he gets to know her more, he falls harder and harder for her charms, but will he threaten their friendship by telling her how he feels?
REVIEW: THE F WORD feels like it could be the Toronto answer to the Sundance breakout hit 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. Like that movie, it takes a stale genre, and gives it a hip indie twist. It's director Michael Dowse's follow-up to GOON, and just like that film, it's hilariously foul script disguises a surprisingly soft, big-hearted centre.
In my HORNS review, I complained about Daniel Radcliffe coming off as too nice-a-guy to play a ne'er-do-well slacker. Here however, he's got a role that's tailor made for him. Playing a Brit living in Toronto with his single parent sister, Radcliffe is everything the lead role in a movie like this needs. He seems authentically sweet, and writer Elan Mastai's sharp-as-nails dialogue rolls off his tongue with panache. Even more significant, his chemistry with Zoe Kazan is perfect.
Both Kazan and Radcliffe are cute and appealing, but neither are drop-dead gorgeous in the classical Hollywood way, which makes them feel a little more human than usual for the genre. In the past, I haven't been Kazan's biggest fan, with RUBY SPARKS especially rubbing me the wrong way. Here, it can't be denied that she's absolutely wonderful as the quick-witted, but vulnerable Chantry. In these kinds of movies, it's often frustrating when the leading lady takes so long to decide the leading man is right for her, but with Rafe Spall as her nice-guy boyfriend- who also has an appealing clumsy streak- you can understand it and sympathize with her reluctance to chuck what seems to be a fulfilling relationship.
Many have cited WHEN HARRY MET SALLY as THE F WORD's touchstone, and there are certainly tons of similarities, although neither Kazan nor Radcliffe are nearly as acerbic as their older counterparts. But just like Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in that movie, they seem meant for each other. Adam Driver gets the Bruno Kirby role as Radcliffe's studly best friend (stealing every scene he's in- just like on GIRLS). There's even the equivalent of the “I'll have what she's having” scene, although here the conversation is slightly less classy, focusing on how much feces Elvis died with in his intestines (it makes sense when you watch it). Also, what Rob Reiner did for Manhattan, Dowse does for the rarely used (as an actual on-screen location, although plenty of films shoot there) Toronto. Everything people love about the city is on display here, from the cool diners, artisan shops, and hip neighborhoods that many young people have walked around and fell in love in. More than anything, this is a love-letter to that city.
With CBS Films on tap to give the film a wide release at some point, THE F WORD has real breakout potential, and hopefully it'll find it's audience. The quirky indie rom-com has become a genre unto itself lately, but it can't be denied this is that genre at it's very best.