That Awkward Moment wastes any goodwill it builds with its audience the scene after writer/director Tom Gormican decided to kill the father of one of the main characters. Up until that point, stars Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller have created likable, relatable characters. Although this attempt at an indie-vibed Seth Rogen/Jason Segel man-child rom-com has some faults, the actors rise above the material.
Besides the three male leads, the cast also includes Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis as the more mature females in the film. Even when Efron’s character, Jason, in a set-up so contrived you want to smack Gormican, shows up to a “dress up” party thrown by Poots’ Ellie wearing a foot-long dildo hanging out of his pants, while everyone else is in formal attire (see, he thought “dress up” meant “costume.” Get it. Ha!), Jason charms his way into the hearts of the characters, especially Ellie’s father.
And then the father dies.
Immediately after that, Jason actually debates whether he should attend the funeral because it might imply that he’s in a relationship with Ellie. Really? Really?! Dude sleeps with her on several occasions, spends time with her family, she forgives him for the idiotic dildo incident, and he’s the first person she calls when her dad dies. Does it really matter whether they’re in a relationship? This is about being a human being instead of some immature caricature of a man.
There are a thousand other ways to create conflict between Jason and Ellie, but Gormican chose this utterly false reason to create tension. It’s been a long time since I was so pissed off at a movie that I shut it off and was tempted not to watch the rest. I was close with That Awkward Moment, but I came back 24 hours later, just in case I was wrong, just in case I jumped the gun and Jason actually manned up and went Ellie’s father’s funeral.
What do you think happens?
The actors in That Awkward Moment are exceptional. With Jordan, Teller and Poots, that statement should come as no shock. Each of these young performers have proven themselves to be capable of handling difficult material. Check our Jordan in Fruitvale Station, Teller in The Spectacular Now, or Poots in A Late Quartet and you’ll see what I mean. Jordan and Teller have an excellent rapport, which gets me excited to see what they bring to The Fantastic Four in the next year or so.
Efron is a surprise. He shows much more depth here than he has in most of his previous roles. I’d never heard of Mackenzie Davis, who plays Teller’s girlfriend throughout the film, but she was excellent. She has a lead role in AMC’s upcoming series, Halt and Catch Fire, which makes me more interested in watching it because she’s very strong in this movie.
The cinematography by Brandon Trost captures New York in the winter and makes the city look magical. Likewise, the editing of Shawn Piper and Greg Tilman creates a dreaminess that one wouldn’t always associate with a male driven rom-com. Actually, everything about That Awkward Moment is pretty top notch, except for the script. Cinema is craving a mature romantic comedy told from a young male point of view. Richard Curtis and Cameron Crowe have reached middle age, and their characters have followed them. If only Gormican had trusted his characters instead of trying to cram them into some kind of screenwriting formula. Instead of greatness, or even very good, we’re left with pretty pictures of pretty people with nothing to say.