In watching That Awkward Moment I wondered if the title got it wrong. Obviously, its title is more fitting for the late-‘90s teen comedy American Pie. (For those that have seen that movie you can instantly recall the same awkward moment I’m thinking about.) Regardless of its title, this first feature from writer/director Tom Gormican is definitely rooted in romance films – not just comedies – of the ‘80s/’90s, going as far to reference them by name (in one scene one of the three male leads is called “Bridget Jones” after his wife breaks up with him and he resorts to drowning his sorrows with ice cream).
It’s clear that Gormican’s love of romance comes with knowing that today’s audiences – particularly men – aren’t all in for that syrupy stuff. So the evolution of the romantic film genre means that his screenplay incorporates lude humor and sexual talk. Call it the Judd Apatow effect. His earlier films, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, would influence the likes of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bridesmaids.
But as much as the advertisements play up the comedy aspect, That Awkward Moment is surprisingly sustainable when it comes to the romance angle. It has a fair share of laughs, but with three leads it allows for further exploration into the romantic stuff.
While the story is about three friends navigating the bar scene, hooking up with ladies with the help of a wingman – or in this case a “wing woman” (is that the proper phrase?) – the greatest romance may not be the individual conquests these three participate in, but the platonic guy-bonding that exists between best friends Jason (Zac Efron), Daniel (Miles Teller), and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan). One-night stands are fine with Jason, because that’s how he operates. Daniel is the same way; he’s a barfly who, with the help of his gal pal Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), picks up women. The only one who is “singled” out is Mikey. Or at least he was until his wife, Vera (Jessica Lucas), blindsides him with wanting a divorce. Now he’s reluctant about entering the dating scene.
The pact they make to remain single, which I guess is next in the evolutionary chain after losing one’s virginity by prom, doesn’t last long. Mikey falls back with Vera due to sexual spontaneity, and Daniel discovers that Chelsea is something more than a friend with benefits. As for Jason, well he falls for Ellie (Imogen Poots), a sassy writer who he at first mistakes for a hooker. I guess that could be construed as an awkward moment.
As a guy who has no qualms with watching chick flicks or romantic comedies, I’ve concluded that the narrative isn’t the key to success. The success lies with a particular branch of science: Chemistry. If the chemistry between the characters is genuine and the filmmaker can convince us that the happily-ever-after ending is deserved, then the romantic comedy has done its job. That Awkward Moment is adequate in both. However, with three main characters there’s difficulty in having them all be fleshed-out versus only having a small arc for their maturation.
Zac Efron has the most essential role in terms of a character arc. Once the star of Disney’s High School Musical, Efron makes a case that he’s a Tom Cruise in waiting. This comes across late into the comedy when he has his Jerry Maguire moment, and I don’t mean by showing somebody money. He and Imogen Poots have good chemistry with just enough sugary confectionery and sparks to keep us involved. Miles Teller, who I championed in last year’s The Spectacular Now, and who reminds me much of John Cusack, has some nice moments with Mackenzie Davis. And he doesn’t even need a boombox to win her heart. The only true casualty in this ensemble is Michael B. Jordan. Already being groomed as the next Denzel – at least in my eyes – the star of Fruitvale Station seems to have to stepped into a character underdeveloped.
That Awkward Moment is aimed at being for mature viewers with its use of f-bombs, frank sexual discussions and more than a few punch-lines aimed at one character’s genitals. The adult humor is likely a carrot to help boyfriends as their significant others facilitate their need of romantic comedy fixation. Though, a case could be made that the comedy could have been better with just a PG-13 rating. Nevertheless, the women will walk out of the theaters having been treated to yet another happily ever after ending. And not an awkward moment too soon, because guys, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
Writer/Director: Tom Gormican Notable Cast: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!