A film review by Craig J. Koban May 16, 2014 


2014, R, 96 mins.


Zac Efron as Jason  /  Imogen Poots as Ellie  /  Miles Teller as Daniel  /  Addison Timlin as Alana  /  Michael B. Jordan as Mikey  /  Jessica Lucas as Vera  /  Josh Pais as Fred

Written and directed by Tom Gormican

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT has many awkward scenes in it…along with cliché-ridden, woefully conventional, and head-shakingly contrived ones to boot.  

It’s one of those romcoms that does not so much contain flesh and blood personas as much as it does stock cardboard cut-out character types that all serve the purpose of mechanically propelling the story from point A to B and finally to C...and with startling predictability.  I have read that the screenplay for THAT AWKWARD MOMENT was on top of the 2010 Hollywood Black List of the best un-produced screenplays.  Upon reflection, I strongly suggest that this particular Black List needs to revamp their judging criteria.  Worse yet is that the film squanders some truly refined and wonderful young actors that are beyond slumming in their respective parts.  

The story follows the lives of three twenty-somethings that all make a social pact with one another that only seems to populate movies such as this.  Zack Efron plays Jason, the de facto leader of the trio, whom with his buddy Daniel (Miles Teller) works by day as book cover designers/artists.  Their respective friend, Manhattan doctor Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) has been hit by some rough news: his wife has very unceremoniously dumped him and has filed for divorce.  Seeing that they want to end their BFFs pain and suffering, Jason and Daniel decide that the best rehab for Mikey is to score with as many babes as possible.  Actually, they make and set some very specific ground rules for all of them to follow, such as no long-term commitments with the women they bed, so that things won’t get weird for any of these guys when a serious woman wants things to get equally serious with them.  Oh, how very, very clever. 

Things, of course, unsurprisingly lead towards the men breaking the very rules that they swore a friend oath to uphold.  Mikey finds himself drawn back closer and closer to his ex-wife, whereas Daniel seems to be getting a bit too close and chummy with his sex buddy, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), whom has assisted Daniel in the past with hooking up with other ladies.  Perhaps the biggest offender of the pact is Jason, who has a very peculiar meet-cute early on in the film with Ellie (Imogen Poots), a girl that he initially believes is a prostitute upon first meeting.  Well, she's not, and when Jason realizes the error of his ways and begins to see what a smart, spirited, and independent minded woman she is, he starts to fall hard for her.  Gee, if only the plot would provide a highly convenient obstacle in the path of their budding love, only to be overturned in a final, would-be rousing moment of pure romantic bliss? 



Written and directed by Tom Gormican (his directorial debut), THAT AWKWARD MOMENT does have one thing going for it: some snappy dialogue exchanges that benefit from the rapid fire delivery and deadpan wit of some of the performers.  The film is appropriately rated R for its salty and lewd exchanges, which is kind of refreshing in a day and age when romcoms like this are sanitized down for a much more audience friendly PG-13.  As for the actors, I appreciate that Miles Teller – so bloody good in films as far ranging as THE SPECTACULAR NOW, RABBIT HOLE, and FOOTLOOSE – is given free reign to let his improvisational instincts run wildly.  He has a good partner in the lovely Mackenzie Davis, who matches him in terms of comic timing and charm.  Michael B. Jordon – so wrongly forgotten in last year’s Oscar race for his searing performance in FRUITVALE STATION – seems to wallow a bit more in his role, which really, on paper at least, never really capitalizes on his substantial talent in any way shape or form.      

This leaves us with Zac Efron, an actor that perhaps never really gets any consideration for having skill because of his ripped, GQ cover model good looks.  I saw him recently in the hysterical NEIGHBORS playing an alpha male frat boy that, despite his insatiable proclivities towards sex, booze, and drugs, is actually a wounded softy on the inside.  His performance in that film was solid for how adeptly he bridged the gap between overt cockiness and vulnerability.  In THAT AWKWARD MOMENT, though, he’s more or less going through the motions of playing a perfunctory skirt-chasing degenerate that turns all soft in the end with the help of "just the right woman."  His character trajectory and arc are so painfully and dutifully telegraphed that it all but drains out any semblance of dramatic conflict and momentum in the film. 

There’s something else about Jason: He’s kind of a pretentious and dislikeable dick, especially as we grow to learn more about what makes him tick as the film progresses.  Here’s a dude who’s completely shallow minded when it comes to women, not to mention that he never shows even a modicum of genuine respect for them.  His life exists for being an unmitigated lady-killer, and since he looks, yes, like Zac Efron, he’s quite proficient at being one.  The script begs us to eventually side with this sap because it goes out of its way to tell us that he really has feelings deep down inside and will eventually reform his chauvinistic ways.  Yet, there’s rarely a moment in the film when we feel legitimately compelled to actually root for and cheer this man on to reform.  On top of that, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT’s whole undercurrent of men are capable of having deep romantic feelings as well as women is kind of oddly sexist.  Imogen Poots’ role in the film exists primarily as a catalyst for Jason’s transformation.  The fact that her and Efron have very little, if any, tangible chemistry only further makes THAT AWKWARD MOMENT feel that much more gratingly force-fed.  

There’s also a surprising lack of comedy and drama in this romcom, which seems like it time-warped from a period in the 1980’s when cheaply made, disposable, and easily forgettable romcoms were a relative dime-a-dozen.  THAT AWKWARD MOMENT is kind of a laughable achievement in formulaic filmmaking that seems content with offering up scene after scene of cringe-inducingly artificial moments that the makers hope will pay off handsomely in the end.  There’s nothing inherently here that we have all not seen countless times before in other equally unremarkable romcoms, and the fact that the film really squanders actors of the high pedigree like Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller is pretty disappointing and frankly unsavory.  If movies were like food, then THAT AWKWARD MOMENT could aptly be described as yesterday’s stale leftovers.  Consume it at your own risk. 

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