Tom Gormican‘s That Awkward Moment is the latest R-rated romantic comedy to bite off a little more than it can chew. That Awkward Moment works best when its three male leads (Zac Efron, Miles Teller & Michael B. Jordan) are bouncing jokes off of each other, with a serviceable amount of chemistry that makes for a funny, if not sometimes memorable film, but just as quick as it builds steam, the film loses it and stumbles into an all too familiar territory. That Awkward Moment works best when it’s simple and funny, but struggles when it tries to dig deeper and become something a little more serious.
Jason (Zac Efron), Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) are three best friends, simple as that. When Mikey’s relationship with his wife gets rocky, Jason and Daniel vow to the single life in hopes of helping their best buddy get through his breakup and onto a new relationship. Jason’s all about no commitment, oftentimes downright avoiding a relationship if he can, while Daniel gets by on being the laid back, easy-going buddy that wants to have fun with his friends.
Mikey’s always been the serious one, which means his failed relationship hits him hard and then rubs off onto Jason and Daniel as they both meet girls that they’re actually interested in. Now, both men must keep their relationships a secret, while Mikey too faces his own secretive relationship with his cheating wife.
That Awkward Moment tries its best to detail the complexity of relationships through a funny lens and a mostly male filter. This isn’t exactly a “bro” movie, but there are many moments that feel like some of the writers behind the film have never actually talked to a member of the opposite sex. The film sometimes over complicates such simple things, because these guys are honestly three of the dumbest and most inexperienced men when it comes to simple dating or expressing feelings.
There’s also director Tom Gormican‘s inability to stick with one tone versus another. There are moments where the film becomes really funny and grabs some well-deserved belly laughs, but then suddenly things shift for the much more serious and Gormican’s direction fumbles, leaving Zac Efron to pick up the film’s heaviest moments, when he’s clearly the weakest actor of the core three.
Efron’s definitely matured from his High School Musical days, but he still struggles when it comes to the film’s dramatic beats. He can’t cry or at least act like he’s naturally crying and instead comes off as some sort of confused puppy dog. Sure, the ladies will adore him, but Efron’s perfectly styled hair does not counteract his lack of having more than three facial expressions throughout the entire film.
Michael B. Jordan evens out a little better, but is mostly sidelined while the other two get the spotlight. Jordan’s character is much more serious than his two friends and Jordan highlights that just fine, but he never breaks out and becomes anything more than a plot point that helps the film get from point A to point B. His character is responsible for most of the film, yet he’s made the least important of the three.
Miles Teller steals the show yet again. Teller’s Daniel is the most thought-out character of the three, with a complete arc that’s satisfying and actually lived from start to finish. Watching his character progress through the film is rewarding and funny and even allows Teller to show off some more of his serious acting chops. He’s the main reason for this film’s success.
The rest is mixed bag. The supporting cast is fine and helps balance out the film’s leads, but Gormican’s writing glosses over almost everything, leaving us with a film that works best as a matinee affair. That Awkward Moment rarely breaks from the mold of romantic R-rated comedies, which means that there’s plenty of cursing and sex-related humor, but none of it really sticks for longer than a minute or two.
The film’s attempt at treating the subject material seriously is almost always underlined by humor and that’s not a bad thing, but that’s also not exactly a good thing when the serious moments start outweighing the funny ones and suddenly the audience is expected to care about the characters. Efron, Jordan and Teller make them likable and more than watchable, but Gormican doesn’t seem nearly as invested.
That Awkward Moment is sadly just another “January movie”. It’s something that most won’t mind seeing, but something that’s also going to be forgotten within the next few weeks. And that sucks, because the concept is good and the three leads are more than capable of keeping things entertaining and fun, but Gormican’s direction is only occasionally fresh and mostly repetitive, safe and surface-level at best.
That Awkward Moment – 7/10