In That Awkward Moment, twenty-something New York City playboys Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) spend the majority of their after-work time picking up girls – in an effort to maintain a “roster” of eligible sex partners. Unfortunately, their close friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) catches his wife cheating and the pair agree to stay single in an effort to help the divorcé get back in the dating game.
As Mikey struggles to adjust to bachelorhood, Jason attempts to make sense of an eye-opening encounter with his former one-night-stand, Ellie (Imogen Poots), just as Daniel begins falling for his “wing girl,” Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). Burdened by insecurity and fear of commitment, the boys hide their true feelings from the ladies (and each other) in order to maintain their pact – until their ruse begins to tear at new-found relationships as well as long-running friendships.
That Awkward Moment was written and directed by newcomer Tom Gormican, and while some moviegoers might be quick to dismiss the film as a brainless rom-com vehicle for Zac Efron, the movie succeeds at exploring modern romance (and bromance) with an honest and often humorous approach. It’s certainly not the deepest examination of male commitment issues, but there’s enough truth under the surface to offer fresh insight in an otherwise standard story about the ups and downs of dating life. In other words, the film isn’t likely to win-over viewers who rolled their eyes at the trailer (or simply can’t warm up to Efron) but solid chemistry between the leads along with several genuine moments about romancing (and stalking) in the digital age should make the film an enjoyable date night watch for both women and men.
The story follows a number of staple romantic comedy cliches and stale narrative arcs (example: boy meets girl, boy screws up, boy attempts to win girl back), overall lacking in the surprise and originality that exists in select scenes. As a result, That Awkward Moment supplies a strange blend: outright retreading setups and plot progressions that average audience members will have seen done countless times (and with greater impact) before, while also throwing in clever variations to ensure that any familiar story beats are mostly relevant and entertaining. Of course, updating a formulaic storyline with raunchy gags and Facebook references won’t prevent a lot of moviegoers from feeling as though they’re going through the motions – and know exactly where all these reluctant lovers are headed.
Similarly, nearly every character is a stock outline – a baby-faced (but guarded) player, sarcastic (but vulnerable) best friend number one, and straight-laced (but naive) best friend number two. On paper, the main players are crude and thinly-scripted with limited opportunity for social commentary since they are driven by the hope of sexual conquest for much of the film. Worst of all, in spite of interesting quirks, the female characters aren’t any more nuanced, primarily following the lead of their respective and immature suitors until a third act impasse (e.g. some unforgivable action) is reached.
Fortunately, Efron, Teller, and Jordan add meat to their roles with fun add-libbing and engaging (albeit extremely raunchy) interactions – while Poots and Davis successfully position their characters as sympathetic victims of egocentric bromance. Efron’s boyish looks and High School Musical pedigree have made him a punching bag for moviegoers who would rather dismiss the young adult heartthrob than recognize him as a potential up-and-comer; yet, Efron has provided likable performances across a multitude of genres (most notably in Liberal Arts, Me and Orson Welles, and Hairspray). Even though his role in That Awkward Moment isn’t going to earn him critical acclaim, he delivers with sharp comedic timing and convincing drama (when needed).
Teller and Jordan are both capable additions, as an enabler and a voice of reason, respectively – though Teller is given significantly more to do in the film. Viewers who were irritated by Teller’s over-the-top characters in party films like Project X or 21 and Over will see a more natural (and less forced) approach to comedy from the actor – who relies on lively improvisation and keen delivery, even in the raunchiest of circumstances. Due to an underdeveloped side arc, Jordan has less time to develop Mikey. The actor is responsible for a few of the film’s biggest laughs, but Mikey is often an outsider or the butt of a joke, rather than an equal participant in the narrative – regrettable, given that Jordan was a standout in Fruitvale Station and Chronicle.
Mackenzie Davis is faced with a similar challenge as the group’s female friend, Chelsea – who (despite good intentions from the actress) is a two note prop charged with aiding Daniel in his sexual conquests and, later, directly fulfilling his desires (even at the expense of her own emotions). Luckily, Imogen Poots presents a slightly stronger female archetype and steals nearly every scene she is in. Even when her character, Ellie, is at the mercy of Jason’s indecision, she’s easily the most charming and nuanced member of the ensemble.
Gormican’s script and film play to the romantic comedy base at nearly every turn, and while That Awkward Moment doesn’t break any new ground in examining the complications of modern relationships, it does feature a few intriguing grains of truth that will be especially insightful to Jason’s self-described “selfish generation.” Still, for anyone that isn’t put-off by Efron or dramedy, the amusing interactions between the leads and their respective love interests offer plenty of extremely raunchy comedic moments, as well as thoughtful (but not necessarily profound) reflections on romance, sex, and the word “so” – making That Awkward Moment worthy of a viewing, regardless of gender.
If you’re still on the fence about That Awkward Moment, check out the trailer below:
That Awkward Moment runs 94 minutes and is Rated R for sexual content and language throughout. Now playing in theaters.
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. And check out our Interviews with the cast.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.