By Jessica Delfanti | January 31, 2014
Director: Tom Gormican
Writer: Tom Gormican
Starring: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas
Coming into Tom Gormican’s That Awkward Moment, I was confused as to its target demographic. Was it intended as an examination of male friendship, a comedy in the vein of Superbad, packed to the brim with dick jokes and public humiliation? Or was it instead a romantic comedy, portraying trials in love for men in their twenties? Neither, it turned out–proven by stale jokes that drove echoes of giggles across the theater, by gasps at the leads’ shirtless bodies, by sighs at the film’s cringeworthy cheesiness, That Awkward Moment was definitely made for teenage girls. Anyone else would be better off saving their money.
The film centers on three young men experiencing different stages of romantic involvement. Mikey (Michael B. Jordan aka Wallace from The Wire) has just been dumped by a cheating wife (Jessica Lucas), provoking his friends Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) to make a pledge to remain single so that they can, what, go out and have drinks together? The implication is that while romantically involved you do not get to go to bars, hang out with your friends, drink beer, play video games, or fart at will. Gah, those heinous women! It’s confusing why men who feel that way about women always seem to be the main characters of films targeted at women; more disturbing that here the trait is portrayed as attractive, and targeted at impressionable young women–but that’s a conversation for another day.
Naturally, this pledge becomes more difficult as Jason gets involved with one of the most uninspired, cookie cutter “hipster” characters ever seen on screen (Imogen Poots), while Daniel entertains a secret relationship with his best friend, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). At a certain point, this becomes a plot tension device (perhaps the only plot device) as the characters keep exclaiming over who is going to lose the “bet.” Wait, what? Yes, they change the pledge to a bet halfway through the movie and seem to legitimately think they are the same thing, not realizing that a pledge implies brotherhood where a bet implies competition, changing the quality of the scenario entirely.
In the central role, Efron is almost embarrassingly bad; every line feels read off a cue card, and his humorous one liners are stiff. His funniest moment in the film is a rom-com public gesture monologue that is impossible to watch without laughing, though it probably wasn’t intended that way.
Efron’s costars hold their own much better. Jordan, for his part, seems like the most earnest man that’s ever graced the silver screen, and his jokes are often delivered with a tinge of bewilderment, as if he’s not entirely sure how he got there, or where his shirt went. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Teller is easily the best part of the film. Having just seen The Spectacular Now, I was excited to see Miles Teller reprise his role as Miles Teller in another comedy (he just plays himself so well!). Even though Teller’s performances always feel like repeats of previous ones, he’s a delight to watch and adds just the right touch of smartass to the mix.
Overall, the film feels like a bag of cotton candy; no one should consume the entire thing, but some will–admittedly, only the ones young enough to not know how bad it is for you. If these are the rom-coms of the Millennials, well, gee, I sure miss the ‘90s.