'That Awkward Moment' Review: Zac Efron, Miles Teller And Michael B. Jordan Charm In Mediocre Comedy
Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan are a dream team as a trio of best friends in their twenties in the enjoyable, but unremarkable comedy, That Awkward Moment.
That Awkward Moment, from first time writer-director Tom Gormican, stars Efron as Jason, your typical good looking, successful bro who spends his time cycling through his ‘roster’ of girls – girls get on the roster by hooking up and are booted once they become too emotionally attached. Jason, along with his similarly ‘no strings attached’ best friend Daniel (Teller) and his just dumped best friend Mikey (Jordan), swear to be single together for the first time since college, when Mikey met and fell in love with his now estranged wife Vera (Jessica Lucas). Of course, the pact becomes complicated when Jason meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), a charming, strong girl who challenges Jason’s just sex policy. Meanwhile, Daniel finds himself crossing over into the friends with benefits territory with his longtime wing woman Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) and Mikey is having trouble getting over his ex.
Ideally, the film would spend equal time with Jason, Daniel and Mikey. All three characters have their own arcs and the three young actors, arguably three of the most talented young men in the business, have excellent chemistry together while still being able to maintain their own personalities and charm separately. And Efron and Teller manage to come across as charming and likable even when their characters are at their most ridiculous. The best scenes of the film are the scenes featuring the three men just being friends and hanging out. Because those scenes are the standouts, one could call it a ‘bromance’ film, but the plot and tone of the film doesn’t quite fit the genre.
Shifting gears towards more of a romantic comedy feel, Gormican chooses to focus on Jason and his blossoming relationship with Ellie. As Ellie, Poots is absolutely fantastic and relatable. She’s a career woman who likes to take chances, but also isn’t shy about asking for what she needs from the men in her life. Plus, she’s stylish without looking put together one hundred percent of the time, making her a good balance to the always perfectly coifed Efron. The fault in having Jason and Ellie be the focal point of the film is that their relationship is too poorly developed to truly carry a romcom. While their chemistry is strong and enchanting, the audience never gets to see them truly connect. Their “falling in love” scenes are mostly comprised of Jason saying something particularly jerk-like and Ellie laughing it off.
In contrast, the less seen romance between Daniel and Chelsea appears much stronger and substantial onscreen, even given the minimal screentime. Teller is magnetic, stealing the show with the brash humor and incredible charm that has become a trademark of his (The Spectacular Now, 21 and Over). And Davis, as Chelsea, provides a great sounding board for Teller. Davis is relatively unknown, but she will not be for long. In terms of the female characters in That Awkward Moment, Chelsea is the strongest and that is due in no small part to Davis’ performance.
After making a splash with his powerful performance in the summer drama Fruitvale Station, Jordan switches gears in That Awkward Moment and the change is, admittedly, a bit jarring. (Although, as a female viewer, I can’t say that I mind seeing more of Jordan onscreen.) Mikey is the sensitive one in the group, and nobody could have played it more sincerely than Jordan. Mikey is the character who suffers the most from the decision to focus on Jason’s story. His emotional plight is the most obvious – his wife just announced that she’s seeing someone else and wants a divorce – but carries the least weight because of limited screen time. He has a few very emotional scenes and monologues, but the writing fails to back it up with any real information. It’s difficult to truly connect with him because the audience knows absolutely nothing about him and his marriage. But, Jordan has the ability to hint at a complete character beyond the page and beyond what audiences see onscreen. In Jordan’s hands, Mikey comes alive on his own instead of being the embodiment of Jason’s redeeming qualities.
That Awkward Moment is not bad, but it’s not good either. The problem with the film is that it doesn’t quite know what it is. Is it a bromance? Is it a romantic comedy? Does it want to target a female audience or a male audience? Straight, young women will no doubt flock to the film to see Efron, Teller and Jordan and bask in their charm and good looks, but the film’s unsatisfactory female characters will prevent female audiences from seeing the film as anything other than a story about pretty jerks who like to talk about women as objects. In one scene, Jason tells Ellie that he thought she might be a hooker after their first encounter because of all the condoms by her bed. Not once is it mentioned that Jason might want to think about what it means that a woman who owns condoms can be so casually taken for a hooker. To her credit, Ellie is offended, but the fact that the double standard is never even hinted at coupled with the weak female characters makes the film very difficult to relate to as a female viewer.
That said, the film isn’t quite tailored for male audiences either. The score sounds like it comes straight from a Nancy Meyers film (It’s Complicated, The Holiday), and the film ends in a cliché declaration of love that could rival any Katherine Heigl flick. It’s too little too late to turn That Awkward Moment into a class romcom, but too sappy to be a realistic portrait of dating in your twenties.
The grand gesture, while sweet, is completely strange and goes against the original tone of the film as a “guy’s” movie. It felt a bit desperate, as if the filmmakers wanted to make sure female audiences liked the movie and assumed that there needed to be a ‘happily ever after’ ending to ensure that. What That Awkward Moment doesn’t understand is that many women in their twenties don’t have this all or nothing mentality when it comes to relationships: girls don’t want love or nothing, it’s the willingness to give a relationship a chance that’s truly the happy (and more realistic) ending.