D: Tom Gormican / 92m
Cast: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas, Addison Timlin, Josh Pais
With the rom-com feeling like it’s hit a bit of a rut at the moment, this male-centric offering from first-time writer/director Gormican seems – at first glance – to offer something a little bit different.
When Mikey (Jordan) tells his friends Jason (Efron) and Daniel (Teller) that his wife, Vera (Lucas) wants a divorce, it prompts them to make a pact: to avoid serious, long-term relationships and revisit their younger days when they partied and flirted and drifted from woman to woman. For Jason and Daniel this isn’t so difficult as this is what they’re already doing; for Mikey it proves a little bit harder as he still wants to rescue his marriage.
Jason meets Ellie (Poots) at a bar and they go back to her place. A misunderstanding sees him leave before she wakes the next morning, but already he’s smitten. When they meet again where he works as a book jacket designer (in tandem with Daniel), they resume their fledgling relationship, and begin spending more time together. Daniel, who uses his friend Chelsea (Davis) to pick up girls, finds himself becoming attracted to her; their friendship evolves into their becoming lovers themselves. With Mikey rekindling his marriage to Vera, all three men find themselves reneging on the pact they made. Afraid of ruining their own relationships, the men find themselves struggling to admit their feelings for the women in their lives, both to themselves and to each other.
That Awkward Moment is, at heart, more of a bromance than a romantic comedy, with the relationship between Jason, Daniel and Mikey taking centre stage. With this in mind it’s easy to dismiss the movie as a “guys-can-be-jerks-but-deep-down-they’re-really-sensitive” modern-day fairy tale. They’re all good guys and they have an obviously close bond but they can’t seem to relate that well to women, until they meet the right ones (or in Mikey’s case, fail to call her back). There’s the usual missteps and misunderstandings along the way, a couple of minor emotional upheavals, and the sight of Efron and Teller both attempting to pee while dealing with the effects of Viagra. The humour is generally low-key (there are few laugh-out-loud moments), and some scenes are entertaining in an offbeat way, but the way in which the guys lie and deceive each other is wearing and uninspired. It’s this haphazard approach that keeps the movie from being as insightful as it would like to be, and as original as it thinks it is.
Of the male leads, Teller (recently revealed to be the new Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four reboot) fares best, his rapid fire delivery and caustic put-downs infused with a nervous energy that suits his often dismissive character. Jordan is required to look either bemused or credulous a lot, and while his character is the most likeable of the three, he gets less screen time. It’s Efron, though, who gets a bit of a raw deal. Jason is, to put it bluntly, a bit of a prick. He’s a commitment-phobe who balks when the women he’s seeing start to ask where their relationship is going (the awkward moment of the title), and he badly disappoints Ellie at a time when she really needs him. He views being “serious” as something to be avoided, even when he is clearly falling in love; why he’s so repressed in this area is never satisfactorily explored or explained. As a consequence, Efron is hard-pressed to make Jason sympathetic; he just makes too many easily avoided mistakes.
As the slightly kooky Ellie, Poots cements her rising star status, while Davis’s confident turn should ensure her career gains momentum, but Lucas is saddled with a one-note character who is never developed in a way that would make her interesting. The script is at fault here, and it’s this lack of attention to some of the characters that stops the movie from breaking out of its own shell. That aside, there are some good moments – Jason attending a party and misunderstanding the dress code, Daniel and Chelsea’s friendship evolving into something more serious – but there aren’t enough of them to make up for the shortage elsewhere.
Under Gormican’s direction, That Awkward Moment ambles through its running time, neither pleasing its audience entirely or taking too many risks. The material wears thin too soon, and there’s not enough depth to make the interplay between the couples anything less than perfunctory. There’s the germ of a good idea here, but Gormican can’t quite get it to flower.
Rating: 5/10 – below par bromantic comedy that never takes off or seems to want to; a patchy script means a patchy movie and a severely weakened premise.