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Review: That Awkward Moment

January 30, 2014

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

That Awkward Moment PosterThe title of That Awkward Moment could be used to describe the film itself, a romantic comedy that provides several scenes that feel awkward, a word I’m using with both negative and mildly positive connotations.  The aptly titled movie opens tomorrow, courtesy of VVS Films.

The film opens with Jason (Zac Efron) sitting on a park bench in the middle of the night, telling us in voiceover that it’s cold outside and he’s waiting for a girl.  This is a cliché and the character knows it, but writer and director Tom Gormican is subverting the typical scenario, which actually starts things off on a somewhat promising note.

After Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) finds out that his wife (Jessica Lucas) is cheating on him with a divorce lawyer who “looks like Morris Chestnut,” his buddies Jason and Daniel (Miles Teller) make a pact that they are staying single with him.

This works out for Jason, because for him the title moment comes when a girl starts a conversation with the word “so,” meaning that she expects more than just casual sex from a relationship.  But their promise predictably gets broken when Jason makes a connection with Ellie (Imogen Poots), a cute girl staring at him from across the bar, and Daniel starts recognizing deeper feelings for his friend and confidante Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis).

From here, That Awkward Moment is mildly amusing in a mindless romantic comedy sort of way, offering plenty of scenes that deliver exactly what the title promises, even if some of these moments do feel contrived.  For example, after their first night together, Jason accidentally mistakes Ellie for a hooker.  But who do you think he meets again during a pitch meeting the next day, when she is sitting across the table at the publishing house where he works with Daniel?  There are some entertaining scenes, and they are all gamely played by the talented and attractive young cast, which includes two of the most promising actors of this generation with Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan.

But then comes the “so” moment as Jason would call it, when things become serious and therefore cliché.  We spend much of the movie waiting for these guys to grow up and make more mature decisions about their relationships, but when the film takes a dramatic turn in the last act, I found myself yearning for the freewheeling feel of the earlier scenes.  I won’t spoil the circumstances, but an announcement is made that changes the fate of a minor character who was literally just introduced a few scenes earlier, prompting Jason to make a decision that seems completely cold.  This is a film that frustratingly uses a dramatic incident as a plot device, awkwardly placing drama in the middle of the comedic narrative simply as a false turning point for the characters.

As attractive as the locations and cast might be, this is frequently a clichéd film, and the only plot point that we don’t see from a mile away comes out of nowhere and doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie.  By the time we circle back to that opening scene on the park bench, things feels predictable, like we’ve seen this all before.  Although Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan are all likeable enough actors to keep the film watchable, That Awkward Moment ultimately would have been more fun if they avoided many of the title moments and didn’t try committing to being serious.

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