“What Happens Later” may feature the archetypes that made Meg Ryan and David Duchovny staples in the entertainment industry, but they lack the chemistry needed to make this film good.


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General Information

Director(s) Meg Ryan
Screenplay By Meg Ryan, Steven Dietz, Kirk Lynn
Story Based On Steven Dietz
Date Released (In Theaters) November 2, 2023
Genre(s) Comedy

Romance

Film Length 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
Willa Meg Ryan
Bill David Duchovny

Only pertinent information is included in the summary and review section, which might be considered spoilers. However, in some posts, the ending will be recapped and explained as long as the film or short is publicly accessible. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

Content Rating Explanation

“What Happens Later” contains:

  • Dialog: Cursing throughout
  • Violence: None
  • Sexual Content: None
  • Miscellaneous: Drinking and smoking (weed)

Film Summary

Bill and Willa, in college, were in a relationship. However, upon the more liberal and chaotic Willa asking to open the relationship, which Bill agreed to, that was the beginning of the end. Fast forward over 20 years, and now Willa and Bill meet again at an airport.

Willa is single, Bill is a father who doesn’t have the best relationship with the mother of his child, and with this chance encounter, Willa decides to get closure. For with Bill leaving her so suddenly decades ago, she has questions, and it seems her take on the breakup and Bill needs reconciliation.

So, throughout a night when both are stuck in the airport, they recap the highs and lows of their relationship, leaving you to wonder, considering their situations, if this could mean only getting closure or a new chapter in their relationship?

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.

Bill

Bill was always the practical one to Willa, as he was the calm matching her storm. However, the man who would write poetry and songs now is focused on his job liquidating companies, trying to be a decent dad, and trying to keep his job as millennials and Gen Z begin to take over and surpass him on the corporate ladder.

Willa

Willa was always a bit kooky. She is into chakras and likes to keep moving, but this doesn’t mean she dislikes having something stable in her life. After all, she did love Bill, and while he thought settling down wasn’t something she wanted, for him? She would at least try. Which is why, now later in life and seeing her ex, there is a desire to question what it might have been like if she had taken a different path and didn’t end up losing him and becoming a masseuse, among other things, to musicians.

Review

Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)

Low Points

The Type Of Dialog That Leads You To Wonder Where Were The Writers Pulling From?

Have you ever considered how much you’ve said a person’s name in your life? Not a title like “Mom” or “Babe” but actually said someone’s name, never mind their first initial and last name? It is done so often in this movie that it can easily become a drinking game since Willa loves to call Bill, nearly every third to fifth line, W. Davis.

It starts off kind of weird but eventually gets annoying since who says someone’s name that often in conversation? Especially an extended one that takes place overnight?

But that’s the way the dialog is crafted throughout the movie. It’s awkward, and not in a way that pushes authenticity but rather the idea that someone doesn’t know how a situation like Willa and Bill’s would play out. So, instead, you get an unnatural, jarring, or cringey series of exchanges that may, on the rare occasion, veer towards two human beings interacting but often makes you wish more people gave input outside of those close to the production.

On The Fence

Two Actors Who Clearly Need A Better Scene Partner

On paper, Meg Ryan and David Duchovny seem like an excellent opposites-attract pairing. He is known for his dry humor; she is known for her earnestness in characters, so you’d think it would be a wonderful clash of opposites – it’s not.

Instead, what you get is a tiresome back and forth where Willa so badly wants closure, and Bill, at times, seemingly just wants to be polite and, other times, tune Willa out because her new age beliefs and dredging up the past is the last thing Bill needs. He has a meeting with his boss, a part of him worries about the potential of losing his job, and here comes his ex, who, because she relies on her emotional memory instead of facts, has long painted him as the bad guy in her story.

Now, I would be lying to you if I didn’t say, when Ryan and Duchovny set aside the shticks that made them famous, it seemed like something could be there. That maybe, you could get a wonderful opposites attract story in which you see these two as yin and yang. However, ultimately, that doesn’t come to be. Almost as soon as they let go of performing in the way they have for a generation, they slip right back into that habit, and with Ryan directing and being a third of the writers, unfortunately, there was likely no one there to push them to do and be more, beyond themselves.

Who Is This For?

Those who love Meg Ryan and David Duchovny, particularly the characters they have played for decades, and are fine with them not really pushing themselves to present something notable different.

Recommendations

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How Did “What Happens Later” End? (Ending Explained)

So, it is ultimately explained to us that Willa’s miscarriage and her wanting to open the relationship up that is what led to Bill dissolving their relationship. He questioned whether the kid was his, couldn’t really handle the idea of her sleeping with other men, and he ultimately recognized that what he wanted was a traditional relationship, and she didn’t.

With that in mind, he married a woman and had a kid; he is either on the verge of divorce or actually divorced and struggles to be a dad since him trying to push her to be practical and not pursue dance has led to her heart being broken. Now, he gets back in her good graces by the end, but one could assume he has more than one apology he needs to say.

As for Willa? She reveals that despite asking and getting permission to open the relationship, she never slept with anyone. Also, while she originally told Bill she was going to Boston to help a friend with a divorce, she was really going to see a daughter she gave up 20 years ago.

Now, why did she give up her kid? Because she knew she wasn’t cut out to be a mom, especially a single mom, since the musician, a bassist, she got pregnant by didn’t want any parts of her or the kid. So now, decades later, her daughter reached out, and she is trying real hard to maintain the courage needed to see the kid she may not have even kept tabs on.

Which leaves the question: Did Willa and Bill get back together? No. They kiss, Bill gives Willa his card and tries to give Willa his new number while he is on his flight to Austin and she on her flight to Boston, but it is questionable if he wanted to truly restart things or make it so they can both reconcile what happened and finally move on.

Is There Sequel/ Prequel Potential?

Technically, yes. We could get a sequel where Bill and Willa are single, they give their relationship another go, and we could even meet their children. As for a prequel? We could see what their relationship was like in Madison, for while they talk about it a bit, and we get some vague flashback in arrival and departure signs, we don’t get to really see them fall in love and fight when they were in college.


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What Happens Later – Overview

Summary

“What Happens Later” is one of the handful of films I wanted to walk out of. I held on, hoping it would get better, but it ultimately didn’t. It is just a sad attempt to harness the magic and storytelling of the 90s, but without a truly good idea or characters to bring any nostalgia beyond who were cast as leads.

Overall
70%
70%
  • The Type Of Dialog That Leads You To Wonder Where Were The Writers Pulling From? - 67%
    67%
  • Two Actors Who Clearly Need A Better Scene Partner - 73%
    73%
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User Review
0 (0 votes)

Highlight(s)

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Disputable

  • Two Actors Who Clearly Need A Better Scene Partner
  • The Type Of Dialog That Leads You To Wonder Where Were The Writers Pulling From?

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