That Awkward Moment (2014)
Directed by: Tom Gormican
Premise: Three male friends make a pact to stay single and enjoy casual relationships but their accord becomes more challenging when each of the men meets his dream woman.
What Works: The trio of men in That Awkward Moment are played by Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller and the three actors are pretty good in their roles. The men have an easy and believable rapport and they bounce off one another both comically and dramatically. Of the three, Michael B. Jordan gives the best performance, in part because he is given the best role. Unlike his friends, Jordan’s character has settled down but his marriage is suddenly on the rocks due to his wife’s infidelity and the couple spends most of the movie attempting to reconcile their relationship. The storyline of Jordan’s character is surprisingly resonant in places, as he copes with the collapse of what seemed like wedded bliss. That is the primary strength of That Awkward Moment; the film is at its best when it is most honest and plays against the expectations of a romantic comedy.
What Doesn’t: Although That Awkward Moment has some scenes that make an impact, the overall film is compromised by its inconsistent tone, stupid characters, and a plethora of sequences that ring false. The tone of the picture is all over the place. Quite a bit of That Awkward Moment plays like a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, especially the main plot in which Zach Effron’s character romances an up-and-coming author played by Imogen Poots. Effron and Poots are a believable couple but their story adheres strictly to the romantic comedy template. As in most of these movies, she rebuffs his advances but he engages in behavior that would otherwise be characterized as stalking until she relents, only to have their relationship soured by a misunderstanding which is of course ultimately overcome by a public display of sentimentality. That template, as predictable as it is, can be satisfying cinematic junk food if it is done well. The trouble is that the filmmakers of That Awkward Moment botch many of the romantic comedy tropes. The sequences that they come up with for each of the signpost plot turns are absurd or stupid and this is where the movie runs into its tonal problems. Parts of this movie play like a coming of age drama, dealing with very serious scenarios, while other scenes play as a crass sex farce. These moments do not mix with each other, nor do they mesh with the predominant romance of the film. The sequences are also a problem because the lead male characters, especially those played by Zac Efron and Miles Teller, are very stupid. Teller is essentially cast here in the same role he played in 21 & Over in which he is supposed to pass off as some kind of slick ladies’ man but he is not convincing at all and his one-liners make him creepy instead of adorable. At one point Efron’s character shows up to his girlfriend’s formal birthday party wearing an inappropriate Halloween costume. (How this outfit didn’t get the film an NC-17 rating is a mystery.) Instead of changing, he stays at the party, mingles with her friends, and eventually impresses her parents. These sequences shatter the credibility of the movie but they also betray the filmmakers’ regard for women. This is a movie in which the male characters’ major romantic epiphany is that they should not treat women as disposal sex objects. The female characters of That Awkward Moment don’t appear to be airheads but no woman with any semblance of self-respect would stay with these idiots. The fact that they keep coming back to these awful men speaks less to the characters’ charms and much more to the filmmakers’ sense of male privilege.
Bottom Line: That Awkward Moment is basically a heterosexual male version of Sex and the City. The central cast are capable actors but the movie’s few moments of gravitas are outweighed by stupid jokes and poorly executed romantic clichés.
Episode: #478 (February 16, 2014)