That Awkward Moment masquerades as a progressive romantic comedy. One that gives its male characters an ounce of genuine vulnerability, showcases their flaws, and pairs them with empowered, intelligent, and well-written women. In reality, it’s little more than the misogynistic ramblings of the narcissistic Me Generation dominating social media. While it starts cleverly enough, with just the right amount of cuteness and vulgarity to avoid nauseating predictability, it swiftly screws up. In spite of moderately entertaining performances, That Awkward Moment is little more than an insulting, poorly written mess.
We begin with poor Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) being left by his wife (Jessica Lucas). A successful doctor, he comes home to find her and their lawyer – the man she’s leaving him for. He swiftly runs into the arms of his nearest and dearest Bros, Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller). In a move for solidarity, they pledge to first and foremost get poor Mikey laid. Secondly, they make a pact to remain single for as long as it takes to find Mikey a new woman. This suits rogue bachelor Jason, and wise-ass Daniel just fine! That is, of course, until – uh oh! – they each fall for a dainty young thing with a brain.
Mikey falls back into the familiar arms of his now estranged wife. Embarrassed and afraid to tell his friends, he keeps the affair a secret. Jason quickly meets and falls for quirky author Ellie (Imogen Poots), an intelligent woman who “challenges” him. Likewise embarrassed to admit defeat, he keeps the relationship under wraps by pretending she’s just a convenient hookup. Daniel finds himself falling for his best friend and wing-woman, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). And, yep, you guessed it. He’s too embarrassed to tell his friends he has feelings, so he keeps the relationship a secret.
Ultimately, everything blows up in everyone’s faces. Never the less, they all wind up getting what they want in the end. Consequences for poor choices be damned! This is a Rom-Com!
The entire film can be likened to the main character, played predictably and unremarkably by Zac Efron; narcissistic pretty boy who would rather resign himself to The Rules of dating than embrace legitimate compassion and humility. He oozes the kind of charm and charisma that drops panties, but misses the innate characteristics that could make him a human being. The result is a twit who thinks he can swoon his way out of any scenario.
The film is very much the same. It presumes to have substance, laced with wit and crude comedy in the perfect balance. Add in a dash of Häagen-Dazs, some tried, tested and true Rom-Com tropes, and well-timed twists, and you’ve got a winner. In the end, however, the film is vapid, and makes a mockery of young men and women alike.
It insults its female audience by presupposing all they want is a relationship, or a good fuck. Quite like “Blurred Lines” assuming every woman really just wants to be treated like a freak in the sheets, That Awkward Moment presumes that female empowerment is all about casual sex. Or being immune to a man’s dismissive misogyny.
The women in the film are little more than poorly crafted insults. Poots’s Ellie is a Masters graduate releasing her first novel. Freakishly talented for her age, she’s an intelligent, self-possessed intellectual who runs her own lecture series. Davis’s Chelsea is a young professional of some non-descript nature who happens to be an incredibly talented musician with a remarkable voice and stage presence. Both of these women are reduced to little more than simpering, lovesick clichés as soon as their male counterparts decide they’ve been tools all along. Lucas’s Vera isn’t even given that luxury. She’s reduced to little more than a sex-starved, nymphomaniac adulteress ex-wife.
The women in the film are wafer thin – in stature and character – and sacrifice their own characteristics, wants, and needs at the drop of a well-designed line. It makes the grotesque assumption that women are easily duped and won over, and that they are willing to sacrifice all that embodies and empowers them for an “I Love You” and some roses. They aren’t allowed to exist as anything more than accessories for the male protagonist’s stupidity and stunted pseudo-maturation.
The men are pigeonholed as the stereotypical heterosexual male. They fulfill every cliché in the book: terrified of commitment, willing to escape obligation through utterly horrendous behaviour, self-obsessed, driven by sex and with a visceral reaction to the prospect of monogamy. These characters paint the absolute worst picture of young men today. What’s worse is they’re rewarded for their deplorable behaviour, which the audience is expected to accept.
This film is a two-time offender, proving equally as offensive in its representation of men as it is of women.
It’s disappointing to see Teller, Jordan and Poots in roles like this. It does little to showcase their true abilities. The chemistry across the board in this film is excellent, that much must be said. Efron, Teller and Jordan each bounce off one another with some stellar bromantic ease. All the while, Poots, Davis and Lucas struggle to do the same with their terribly written characters.
However well intentioned this first time feature from Tom Gormican is, That Awkward Moment is a failure of the genre.