An ‘Awkward’ Romantic Comedy



Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Zac Efron co-star in first time writer and director Tom Gormican’s new film “That Awkward Moment” which hit theaters across the United States on Jan. 31. 

By Stephan Hall

Romantic comedy narratives tend to be the most simplistic. Audiences who attend these films generally do not expect Shakespeare. They want predictability and flawed yet endearing characters that become likeable over the length of the film, hopefully with a few laughs along the way. 

However, in the case of “That Awkward Moment” written and directed by first-timer Tom Gormican, rom-com audiences may be confused. The film is far from funny and the characters are unlikable misogynists who make dumb decisions over and over again.

The plot is predictable to the extreme. Three men in their late twenties, Jason, Daniel and Mikey (Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, respectively), decide they will have flings with random women to build their collection of booty calls. Jason and Daniel are not sacrificing much, considering they already live the “player” lifestyle.

The first night out, all three guys, not surprisingly, find girls they start to like and they spend almost the entire remainder of the film hiding the relationship from their friends in absurd ways so as not to break the no-strings-attached pact. Why men this age would be against their supposed best friends being in a healthy relationship is never explained. It sets up potentially comical and awkward moments when the guys lie to one another and downgrade women in attempts to fool themselves. This series of events is supposed to develop the characters and make them appealing.

It does neither. 

As expected, the female roles of Ellie, Chelsea and Vera (Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis and Jessica Lucas, respectively) are underdeveloped. Their only purpose in the film seems to be to help the men through their immature growing process, sometimes through action so unrealistic that it borders on absurd. Throughout the film, Jason treats Ellie like she is expendable and at one point he even calls her a prostitute because she has condoms next to her bed, yet she keeps going back to him for no apparent reason—aside from his looks. Casting Efron in a role with such an uncaring personality essentially tells women to lower their standards to nice hair and a six-pack. Teller’s character instructs audience members to stay with their significant other, even if they constantly use you for sex and treat you to penis jokes.

It is groan-inducing for an audience to have to try and root for characters they should hate. The brief exception is Jordan and Lucas’ sensible relationship where they grow to appreciate each other’s talents and quirks. This should have been given more attention. The actors are generally allowed very little screen time to develop the feelings they supposedly have for one another. 

These are proven young actors who have shown in previous films that they have the ability to give great performances. Efron was brilliant in “The Paperboy” and Teller shined in “The Spectacular Now.” It is disappointing that they are hampered in this current film by poor writing and a plot that could have been written in two sentences: “Bros before hoes,” and “Just kidding, I really want a girlfriend.”   

The movie title seems to refer to the time in a man’s late twenties when he has to decide whether he wants to keep living the detached, party lifestyle or grow up and commit to a relationship. This is a fine premise for a romantic comedy, and with better execution this film could have been the classic buddy comedy the makers may have intended it to be. “That Awkward Moment” only seems only interested in cashing in on its protagonists’ looks and more than a few crude jokes though. For every moment that is supposed to be emotionally moving, there are three more moments  when someone’s shirt comes off gratuitously. The only lesson to be learned from this film is how to continue being a juvenile male well into your late twenties or even your early thirties.