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Spring Break Tales from the Road and the Air

IMG_0781I’m off on another adventure today, currently writing this from the spacious and comfortable Toronto Pearson Airport in Canada. Final destination is London, England, where I carved out many memories and theatrical adventures in my early 20’s, but haven’t been there in person for just over seven years. So it will be an exciting reunion with a vibrant city.

For this on the road adventure, I’m pledging to write more on the blog, maybe/hopefully once a day, since there are several sure to be memorable theatre performances on my itinerary, and it might be interesting to reflect publicly on similarities and differences in the city since my earlier time living and working there.

But for now, I just have the energetic purgatory of airport life to report on. I keep feeling like Canada offers a fresher, looser take on the airport routine than what those of us in the USA have come to dread in recent years. Instead of uber-serious gate agents, people actually smile at you. The food offerings are freshly made for a modest price and not sterile wrapped in zealous amounts of packaging. And even some of the planes, as I saw this morning in the photo above, are more colorful and intimate than their American cousins.

It was especially refreshing to depart from cozy and friendly Windsor airport, which stands in stark yet refreshing contrast to the mammoth DTW. In Windsor there are only three gates and one small check-in area, giving the impression that one has traveled back in time to the golden era of air travel or come into a vacation resort. Or chosen an efficient spot to depart on a new adventure.

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You’ve seen this type of story before, but what if you see it again

The previously mentioned What If, which I really ought to have written about sooner after catching it on the big screen August 17th, served as my final filmgoing as an Ann Arbor resident and final film prior to returning to academic life. It was a fittingly optimistic and fresh finale.

what ifThe contemporary story finds Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan living among people their age in Toronto, which is seen as the hip, multicultural, walkable city it really is. Radcliffe portrays a med school dropout who is disillusioned with life and not finding focus in what he wants. He attends a party one night and starts talking with Kazan, who happens to be a distant relative of his roommate (Adam Driver) although they have not gotten to meet before. The two of them seem to hit it off, and then Kazan’s parting shot of “it was great to meet you, but I’ve got to get home to my boyfriend!” seemingly throws an arrow on the evening.

It would be a short film if they left it at that, and so the rest of the story follows the unlikely couple as they continue to get to know each other better after an initial re-meeting following the party, and whether or not their connection will blossom into something more, and if either of them truly want to get to know each other as more than friends — and possibly change their lives along the way. A subplot develops with Driver’s character settling down with a vivacious blonde (Mackenzie Davis) after several years of serial dating, while Kazan’s sister (Megan Park) casts her own opinion of Radcliffe and the situation, and her boyfriend (Rafe Spall) tries to make sense of it all.

The freshness of the story, from Kazan’s character’s profession (an animator) and Radcliffe’s consistently game, committed approach to his scenes, along with a chirpy soundtrack from AC Newman and appealing emphasis on the real streets and locations of Toronto, kept it engaging, even as it veered towards a somewhat inevitable positive conclusion. And the story didn’t shy from hints of “real world” or “real life” drama, as Kazan worked hard in her portrayal to emphasize the many choices thrown at her character, while Driver and Davis used their limited screen time to give a broad, but charming portrayal of their life as a couple.

And of course it’s great to see Radcliffe getting more comfortable as he continues to put distance from his Harry Potter role. His performance here may be his most engaging non-HP portrayal yet, and he seemed relatable, which is key for a modern comedy-drama/romantic comedy, like he just walked off the screen and down the street outside the cinema.

(I wouldn’t have minded seeing it under its original Canadian title, The F Word, and it’s playing right across the river in Windsor under that guise. No surprise that US audiences don’t like risqué film titles.)