I would say That Awkward Moment is properly my first anticipated movie of the year. Picked off the 2010 Blacklist, the film tells a rather conventional romantic comedy tale, but from the male perspective. It’s a fresh angle to go on, and picking three actors who are going through interesting stages in their early careers, this could have been something special.
I was under the best circumstances to enjoy this film too, getting to see a free, early screening with an excited crowd that was somehow savvy enough to get an advanced ticket but not savvy enough to have actually seen any other movie before.
Aside from a few standout moments and a great comic performance, this film is poorly written and edited, with a TV-level plot that’s flimsy at best, and complete with boring, clichéd, and often plainly unlikable characters.
I understand putting Zac Efron front and centre here, as he’s arguably the most famous of the three stars and is at least somewhat talented (I’ve been rooting for him since Charlie St. Cloud), but either due to his limited acting range, miscasting, some tonal issues that switch jarringly between funny and dramatic, poor direction, or all of the above, he truly looks lost here. His character Jason is an unremarkable, unlikable, and underdeveloped douchebag, whose motivations and character decisions for staying single are pretty lame and unjustified.
Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Chronicle) is low-key here as a straight man named Mikey who, despite going through a separation and possible divorce, is mostly ignored here. Thankfully for him, he doesn’t have much to do in a movie like this. His character comes across as needy and pathetic and his conflict is brushed aside in favour of other romantic plotlines. There’s an opportunity here to talk about how when friends undergo grief, we tend to self-identify and make it about ourselves, but that opportunity is wasted, along with many of the actors’ talents.
The one whose talent is not totally wasted here is Miles Teller as Daniel. Coming off his Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner Whiplash due out later this year, and my favourite movie of last year The Spectacular Now, he is in fine comic form. He hardly wastes any of his screen time and adds great flair to the material that’s given, being responsible for the majority of the film’s laughs. As for his romantic plot, it’s forgettable, toned down, and played mostly for laughs as he and his seemingly long-term friend fall for each other without any discernible reason at all.
Up-and-coming actress Imogen Poots has the most developed character solely for plot-driving purposes. We are supposed to care that her and Efron end up together, but when character-building dialogue like, “When I was little, I used to love going to parks,” comes along, it’s hard for the movie not to feel completely disingenuous. From there, the outright laziness and thin writing becomes obvious, so why bother?
“I checked the boxes,” says Mikey at one point in the film. It feels as if that’s what the producers were doing while making this film. You have three former college buddies who, despite being young and in their 20s, all have good, high-paying jobs that allow them to live in nice New York City apartments. There are comic mishaps, sudden tragedies, and for seemingly little reason other than to build tension out of thin air, characters deliberately withholding information from one another that seems to be no big deal or is very obvious from the start. It goes from cliché to cliché, only from a more obnoxious or obtuse angle.
That Awkward Moment has a few funny laughs that are worth watching on TV or free, including some post-credit giggles. Unfortunately, however well-intentioned first time writer-director Tom Gormican was in the making of this film, it has turned out mostly rotten. It’s shallow and largely forgettable, awkward but with its moments.