Women, amirite? One minute you’re entering them from behind, and the next they’re asking you just where this relationship is heading. Jason (Zac Efron) is so familiar with it he’s taken to calling the moment ‘the so,’ as in “so, what are we doing here?” Happily though he’s mastered the clean pull-out and sees no reason to change his behavior anytime soon. Daniel (Miles Teller) isn’t quite the same level of player, but he still enjoys building and tending to his roster of girls. Their friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) has left the game behind and married his college sweetheart, but that’s where the trouble begins.
Mikey’s wife reveals that not only is she having an affair with a man who looks like Morris Chestnut, but she’s also filing for divorce. In an effort towards solidarity, Jason and Daniel join him in a promise and a pact that they’ll all remain single and avoid relationships. But then Jason meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), Daniel starts to fall for his “wing man” Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), and Mikey? He’s hoping to win his wife back.
That Awkward Moment offers a glimpse into the world of twenty-something guys hanging out with friends, looking for interchangeable tail, and avoiding the types of girls who inevitably want more than just a mutually rewarding night of fornication. This would be fine if the film was attempting some kind of commentary, managed any degree of character depth, or achieved the mix of playful rom-com and Judd Apatow raunch that it so clearly wants to reach. Sadly though, as the girls who say “so” discover sooner or later, we don’t always get what we want.
We’ve seen these characters before in better films and in equally uninspired ones. They’re casually entertaining guys who skate along a barely visible arc from Lothario to Romeo, displaying little to no chemistry with their fairer-sex partner on the way to finding true love. Writer/director Tom Gormican‘s script tells us for example how well Jason and Ellie hit it off, but we never really see it. Instead, Jason’s allowed to continually cross unforgivable lines (like skipping a funeral on… Thanksgiving Day?!), and it’s up to the girl to accept this rough-around-the-edges boy just the way he is.
Daniel and Chelsea’s storyline is equally typical leaving only Mikey’s narrative to stand apart from the expected cliches, but it soon rings equally hollow. We’re asked to root for a relationship already devastated by lies and infidelity, but lest you think the film is making a stand on couples trying to make things work it’s made clear that “checking all the boxes” and following society’s traditional path to happiness are no guarantee of bliss. Doing things “right” leads to heartache while having irresponsible fun is rewarded. It’s wish fulfillment for guys in the guise of a romantic comedy. If only there were romance or comedy.
To be fair, while the romantic portion is one-sided, misshapen, and leaking some kind of pus-like fluid the comedic half of the equation isn’t quite as flaccid. A visual gag involving Viagra boners earns some laughs, and a handful of Daniel’s jokes land thanks in part to Teller’s delivery. He and his cohorts are the collective saving grace here. All three bring a degree of confidence and charisma that makes them watchable as they interact with each other and embrace the staleness of it all, but things drag when they’re apart. Their actual “stories” are flimsy and illusory attempts at drama and conflict, and once the narrative sets in by the second act the fun is all but gone.
Gormican’s direction is perfectly serviceable, but his script bites him in the ass at every turn. Jokes repeat themselves, rom-com blueprints are followed to the letter, and characters are only likable because we’re told they are by a frequently smiling cast. Oddly, while the dialogue is filled with a variety of R-rated verbage there’s a puritan-like sensibility when it comes to the visuals. Sex scenes are PG-13 material (the film is R-rated), and there’s no female nudity. Hell, Gormican even shows restraint when it comes to showing Efron’s shirtless torso and waits until the fourteen-minute mark before Jason finds a reason to disrobe. Fourteen minutes!
That Awkward Moment is a verbally raunchy but visually tame flick that ultimately has little funny or of value to say. Do yourself a favor and skip the awkward moment where you realize you paid for a dud, and go watch a double feature of Porky’s and Notting Hill instead. (It’s only fitting as it seems like Gormican watched them recently too.) The sexual antics are funnier, the romance is more convincing, and the characters are far more than one-note shmucks.
The Upside: Three leads are affable enough; a couple laughs; Josh Pais is the only awkward thing here
The Downside: Only a couple laughs; script is a simplistic and sexist (by default) mess; character arcs are phony and uninteresting; we get it, Miles Teller loves cars
On the Side: Tom Gormican’s script, originally called Are We Officially Dating?, placed on The Blacklist in 2010.