January 27, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 31°F


Review: Crude rom-com stumbles over script

That Awkward Moment

Directed by Tom Gormican

“So…where is this going?”

According to “That Awkward Moment,” when a girl asks this dreaded question, the man needs to end the relationship. But, in a movie with a few genuine laughs and far too many genitalia jokes, a well-meshed cast can barely stop this tired plot from eliciting the same question: “Where is this going?”

“That Awkward Moment” follows two best friends, sexy womanizer Jason (Zac Efron) and cocky, funnyman Daniel (Miles Teller) as they navigate the dating scene in New York City. They both take an oath to stay single while their best friend, Manhattan doctor Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), struggles with his divorce from his wife Vera (Jessica Lucas). The three guys sit in the same bar in scene after scene, using Daniel’s charming wingwoman Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) to pick up women, never failing to get the lady they want. Their goal: to build “rosters” of girls for booty-calls. But, as these movies go, Jason falls for the beautiful and witty Ellie (Imogen Poots) he meets in the bar. At the same time, Daniel realizes he has feelings for Chelsea, and the two begin a secret relationship.

With its abundant penis jokes, “That Awkward Moment” should appeal to an audience that enjoys crude humor. Some of these jokes are genuinely funny, one in particular about an unfortunate incident with self-tanner. However, these lines were improvised between Teller and Efron, giving little credit to first-time director and writer, Tom Gormican, whose script proves unoriginal. It follows the same plot as every other romantic comedy and offers nothing new to the genre besides a bit of crude humor.

Efron and Teller manage to keep their dialogue witty and quick, and admittedly, their strongest scenes are the ones they are in together. When they are acting in separate scenes, Efron’s delivery is less natural, and Teller’s lines come off a little self-confident.

Worst of the three leads is Jordan, who has received critical acclaim this year for his role as Oscar Grant in “Fruitvale Station.” As Mikey, he has no depth as a character. His lines are dull, and he is unable to deliver them with the personality of Teller or Efron. Mikey is too domesticated, because of married life, and funny banter between the three is often stifled by Mikey’s oversensitivity. His storyline to keep trying to make it work with his wife who cheated on him “with someone who looks like Morris Chestnut” is honestly emotionless, boring and prevents his character from evolving.

It is clear from the dozens of promotional pictures of Efron that he is the selling point of the movie. Gormican leaves no shortage of close-ups or aerial shots of his chiseled abs. This may be part of the movie’s weakness. Efron’s particularly emotional scene at the end is all but extinguished by the squeals of delight from the teenage girls in the theater during his close-ups. Efron is growing as an actor, but his target audience is too preoccupied looking at his face to appreciate him as a dramatic leading man who can deliver his lines with heartbreaking authenticity.

The women are the strongest part of this “bro-com.” Poots is refreshing as the quirky Ellie, a delightful off-beat change from the typical Barbie doll–esque leading ladies usually found in this kind of movie, wearing a large vintage fur coat and edgy clothes. She is intelligent and strong, and plays her lines with charm; it is obvious why Efron’s character falls for her. Davis is an understated beauty as Chelsea and easily counters Teller’s wit with some sass of her own.

“That Awkward Moment” is enjoyable, but is nothing more than a cookie-cutter romantic comedy from a man’s point of view. It’s most emotional moments struggle to feel authentic because of the script’s unoriginality. A cast with such potential is dragged down by a recycled plot. However, fans of Efron and cheap jokes are sure to enjoy.