Let’s set the scene: Jason and his newest lady friend, Ellie, are lying together in bed having just completed their latest act of sexual mingling. Ellie, a little upset with herself, playfully says she was going to make him wait and suffer before giving into him (after having been ditched the last time over an oddly-reasoned misunderstanding). Jason smiles. “Yeah, I was going to do that too. Then I remembered… I’m a dude.” That small, seemingly throw-away scene perfectly sets the tone for That Awkward Moment, the closest thing I think we’ll ever come to getting a romantic comedy for men.
Alongside Zac Efron as the aforementioned Jason (in a strangely empathetic role of sensitive douche) are Michael B. Jordon and Miles Teller as his best friends from college, Mikey and Daniel, respectively. After Mikey finds out his wife is cheating on him, they all vow to remain bachelors for the good of the group. Of course, you know that whenever a vow like this is made, each one of the characters is going to find someone that will force them to break that vow.
Those objects of affection come in the form of Imogen Poots as Ellie, the sweet, young, pretty object sitting at the end of the bar who turns out to be a smart, delicate writing novice with a heart of gold; Jessica Lucas as Mikey’s wife; and Mackenzie Davis as Chelsea, a really good friend of the group who trades friendly barbs with Daniel until they find their friendship grow into much more than simply helping the other pick-up the next prospective fling at a bar.
Each of these girls, it turns out, drive the narrative through the lens of a female perspective despite the fact the entire film is told from the guy’s point of view. Along with the stereotypical male banter (bathroom humor, wise-cracking sexual innuendo and probably a few too many jokes about one another’s manhood), Jason, Mikey and Daniel have no problem talking about every single aspect of their lives in a “manly” version of sentimentality, affection and love for each other and their significant others. They are a lot like a group of stereotypical females with a side of jocularity thrown in to remind us that they’re still ageless men.
The funny thing is, it actually manages to somehow work, possibly because this discrepancy gives each of the characters more depth than just your average stereotype would, though I did find Jason and Daniel to be a little too similar; in some ways they almost felt like the same character. Because they had the exact same attitude about everything in regards to women, dating, relationships and love, it was easy to see why they were friends, but at times was hard to understand why the movie needed both. Their personal discoveries in the relationship department veer wildly away from each other, though, which helps give them reason — and purpose — to the overall heart of the story.
I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in, but was pleasantly surprised by the execution of the movie as a whole. Writer and director Tom Gormican doesn’t stray too far from the typical romantic-comedy plot points — there is a seriously tender meet-cute between Jason and Ellie when they first lay eyes on each other at the local bar, and there are two very different, but no less perfectly executed “get the girl back” climaxes. The first is hilarious in its anti-romantic-comedy approach, the other is right out of the grand gesture playbook of winning the girl over after the dude royally screws-up. The best part is, neither of them felt forced in any way.
The reason is, all three lead actors (along with their female counterparts) come alive together, making you believe in them as couples, as friends and as partners in life, love and friendship. Efron and Poots sparkle together with a chemistry that pulls you into the fun, the crazy, and of course the awkwardness of a relationship, and Teller and Davis are funny and cute as the friends who appear at first to be brother and sister but are irresistible as a couple.
The story also helps give us some extremely awkward, if not profound, moments (the craziest goes to the most bizarre and funniest ways to use a toilet I think I have ever seen). The awkward moment of the title refers to “the ‘so’ moment”—that moment when the girl seeks to find out where the relationship is going. When that happens, it’s time for the man to cut ties and move on to the next romantically-absent booty call. But those specific moments, according to the film, are never as awkward as the moments you encounter when you are falling head-over-heels in love.
One of the most awkward of all moments in the movie involves an elongated dick joke (in more ways than one). On the surface, the scene is a completely one-note joke that lasts too long, but Efron plays the scene so well, you have no choice but to feel every small nuance of embarrassment, goofiness, humiliation and apologetic shame, even as he tries his best to contain it all. Because of this, you feel for him, believing every moment the scene enjoys at his expense (and the small connections made because of it).
It’s one of those life lessons that you have to laugh at — to take the misunderstanding and ride with it — because there will always be another (and possibly bigger) embarrassment somewhere down the road, especially when dealing with the blossoming of a relationship that you want to hide from, but can’t ignore or escape. In life, it’s about knowing when to give up the game and find the truth within our souls, which sometimes just comes down to getting out of your own way and finding the joy (and the love) in the most awkward of moments.
My Grade: A-
Next week, new movies include The Lego Movie, Vampire Academy and The Monuments Men. If you would like to see a review of this, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.