The title of That Awkward Moment refers to the point in a relationship where one party—usually the female—wonders aloud, “So…where’s this going?” In writer/director Tom Gormican’s problematic comedy, that awkward moment may be the point where the film tries to be funny—as when Jason (Zac Efron) shows up at a sophisticated “dress up” party wearing a prosthetic penis—and it is not.
Jason is a New York City book jacket designer who works with his best friend Daniel (Miles Teller), a wiseass wingman, and hangs out with Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), a doctor going through a divorce. The three friends make a pact to stay single—in support of Mikey’s situation—and not have relationships. This plan, however, quickly goes awry as Jason is attracted to Ellie (Imogen Poots), an author; Daniel connects with Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) a friend with benefits; and Mikey keeps having sex with his ex, Vera (Jessica Lucas).
That Awkward Moment positions itself as a fun, bromantic comedy, but the jokes are mostly juvenile. In addition to the aforementioned dildo stunt, Mikey gets teased for masturbating with self-tanner, and a Viagra gag has Daniel and Jason peeing “horizontally.” This is not to say these scenes fail to elicit some laughs, but there are too few funny moments in this comedy.
Another problem is that Jason is meant to be charming, but he is mostly selfish and arrogant. It may be a grand romantic gesture when he steals a key to Gramercy Park for Ellie, but mostly Jason is out for himself. When he fails to show up for Ellie during a critical point in her life—because it would indicate that he really cares for her—he proves he’s a shit. Jason is not particularly decent towards his buddies either. When Mikey learns his wife is cheating on him, Jason is hardly sympathetic: he insists they just go out and get laid.
Mikey is the film’s most adult character, perhaps because he has been married and is a doctor, but he has the weakest storyline. Daniel is an arrested adolescent, like Jason. He lies to Chelsea about telling his buddies about their relationship so as not to break the deal he made with his friends. Of course, this backfires, in a titular awkward moment in a bathroom during a Thanksgiving party. A pants-less Daniel tries to explain his bad behavior to both his best friends and his girlfriend. He is neither amusing nor convincing.
This scene, like many scenes in That Awkward Moment, strains viewers’ patience. The misogyny on display throughout the film is only tempered by the fact that the guys are the ones being sexually objectified. Efron is appealing when he displays his buff physique, and both Teller and Jordan bare their torsos, whereas the women generally do not. However, this guy candy is not sufficient enough reason to spend time with an unlikable character like Jason who does not consider six weeks of sex as dating. Awkward indeed.
That Awkward Moment opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.