“If a movie does nothing wrong, does that make it a movie that does everything right?”
I asked myself that during The F Word, and afterwards when I was developing my overall feelings towards Michael Dowse’s Toronto bound romantic comedy.
The F Word does the trick, and goes through the hoops it needs to in order to please its general audience. We have two likeable leads (Wallace and Chantey played by Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan) who are slowly falling for each other despite knowing where their friendship limitations stand. Radcliffe and Kazan make a great pair, and can make the most awkward situation come across as adorable shyness. They have terrific on-screen presence when they’re by themselves as well.
Elan Mastai’s screenplay and Dowse’s ability to tap into sweet, puppy love sporadically strings us along. We’re well aware of all the conventions and rom-com tropes it’s taking pit stops at, and having the film released in the wake of David Wain’s brilliant rom-com skewer They Came Together doesn’t help Dowse. However, the movie’s overall pleasant mood makes The F Word an easy watch.
There’s something that stops me from fully embracing The F Word though – the hesitance lies within Michael Dowse’s filmography.
The sugary romantic comedy has the irreverent, original filmmaker treading new waters. This is the same guy who brought rowdy comedies such as FUBAR, its sequel and Goon to the big screen. Those films are rebelliously crass in how they deliver laughs as they follow dumb-dumb man children, but they find a way to be endearingly sweet in their own nature.
Even Dowse’s undetected sex comedy Take Me Home Tonight – which was unfortunately dumped into American theatres and somehow completely bypassed a Canadian run – had edgy qualities to it while sustaining a romance and a send-up to 80’s culture.
The F Word works as a date movie, but it doesn’t have the originality Michael Dowse offers with his talents. It’s harmless, but too safe. It successfully shows a transitioning friendship between two relatable characters, but the film only truly surprises us a few times.
It’s a tame movie that has animations soaring across Toronto scenery just to add hipster whim, and the film has a lot of recognizable locations for Torontonians to nudge the person next to them and snicker. The film’s got that crummy boyfriend character who appears nice at first, but becomes snarky only because he’s intimidated. And, that blunt best friend who effortlessly steals the scenes he’s in. Do you need more examples, or have you already started forgetting the movie?
If you take The F Word as nothing more than a light romantic comedy, you’ll feel satisfied after watching it. It’s fine in an admitting-its-doughy-innocense-made-you-smile-a-few-times sort of way. It only becomes disappointing when you realize who’s behind the camera. Michael Dowse shouldn’t be making the cuddly romantic comedy. He should be making fun of the cuddly romantic comedy.