5 February 2014


That Awkward Moment isn't the worst romantic comedy I've ever seen, and by the toilet-worthy standards of the commercial side of the genre, it's a reasonably solid entry. It is, however, quite misjudged on a number of levels, and it's another of those raunchy romcoms that plays at being bad while still coming out completely conservative.

Jason is a young, attractive 20-something player, living in New York, who strings along a roster (his word, not mine) of girls in casual relationships, up to, but no further than, the point where they ask the question "So, where is this going?"- a question that you'll never find yourself asking about this plot. He lives in blissful bromance with his friends, Daniel and Mikey, until the latter of them finds out his wife is cheating on him and they break up. The three friends enter a pact to stay single, in solidarity with Mikey, just as emotional maturity peeks its head around the corner.

We all have hang-ups and pet peeves about certain romcom tropes, right? The characters are always roving creatives who are implausibly successful, (under-representing those creatives who are more like Llewyn Davis, or... well, me) so that they're completely secure from a material point of view and can devote most of their attention to wacky misunderstandings and heartfelt proclamations. They seldom feel even remotely like real people, as they go through the boy-meets-girl motions. Now, imagine those tropes being enacted first and foremost in a three-way bromance, and one which doesn't ring true at that.

I've heard That Awkward Moment described as "Girls, but with boys" or, more harshly, like "Sex & The City, (the movies) but with boys", but it has about as much in common with HBO as High School Musical. You can see the appeal of breaking Disney-type for banner star Zac Efron, who can safely assume that his tweenage fanbase didn't go to see his other, less mainstream R-rated endeavour, The Paperboy, but this is a film that protests too much when it comes to the raunch, and fails to exploit his actual talents as a movie star.

It's not to say that he should be singing and dancing in every movie, but people who can do this kind of comedy are ten-a-penny. Case in point- though I hear that Miles Teller has been fantastic in a number of different indie dramas, I've only seen him in this and 21 & Over, and I look forward to finding out if that's true. But I  can also tell you that in comedy terms, you can get ten Miles Tellers for a penny. His fast-talking shtick, as it was in that Hangover Babies movie, is meant to approximate a young Cusack or Downey Jr, but again comes far closer to Vince Vaughn. Alongside that, it's as if Efron's draw is that women take more of his player bullshit, and are still charmed into getting back with him, purely because he looks and acts like Zac Efron.

The most obviously likeable of the three is Michael B. Jordan's Mikey. He's already where the generic expectations want him to be, right at the start of the film, and (without spoiling too much) he winds up negotiating his way back there once his marriage is plunged into jeopardy. The other two are charming, sure, but they have to be pretty heinous before they get back there. Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis play smart and lively love interests, but our heroes are depressingly immature enough to first be surprised that they're smart as well as attractive, and then be reluctant to actually get into a decent relationship with them because they're also smart.

After making the movie with that genuinely awkward jellyfish momentThat Awkward Moment finds Zac Efron taking the road well travelled in his quest to break type. As I said when I began, writer-director Tom Gormican hasn't made the worst example of this genre that I've ever seen, but for the type of post-modern raunchy romcom it's aspiring to be, it's weak sauce. It has a couple of chuckles, but it's not funny enough to otherwise linger on tedious misunderstandings between attractive people with no problems, and that's more or less what it's content to do. It's not just that I don't like the players, I don't like the game either.

That Awkward Moment is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen That Awkward Moment, why not share your comments below? And do we think this is better or worse than Friends With Benefits, No Strings Attached, et al? Granted, this one didn't have the beauty of a tagline that was "Can sex friends be best friends?"

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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