February 6, 2014
There’s a scene in Man of Steel in which Superman is confronted by a military general for destroying a spy satellite. After Superman flies away, the general notices one of his soldiers, a woman, blushing. “What are you smiling about, captain?” the general asks. “Nothing sir,” she replies, "I just think he’s kinda hot.” It is a moment that is completely cringe-inducing, misogynistic and adds nothing to an incredibly mediocre movie. That Awkward Moment is what would happen if that moment was stretched to 94 minutes and starred Zac Efron. It is a movie that tries so hard to be “hip” that there might as well be a hashtag in the title. On the plus side, it is an early frontrunner for the “bro-iest” movie of the year, so it’s got that going for it.
The plot of That Awkward Moment is not so much a plot as a series of blowjob jokes and montages of attractive people having sex. Basically, an attractive bro named Jason (Zac Efron) and his two friends Comedic Relief (Miles Teller) and Pouty Face (Michael B. Jordan) make a pact to stay single after it is revealed that Pouty Face is getting a divorce (hence the face). Teller and Efron are book cover designers, the kind of job Kate Hudson or Sarah Jessica Parker might have in one of their movies. Michael B. Jordan is a doctor, because one of the characters had to have a real job, athough he later takes advantage of his profession it by having sex with his ex-wife in the hospital. These three bros seem to spend most of their days wandering the same block of New York city, clutching their Starbucks and discussing the various ways in which they will try to objectify women that night. In these discussions, Jason is able to spout the various precepts of his womanizing mantra of Barney Stinson’s “Bro Code,” only carfully considered.
Despite the posters and title and all logical sense, I was mildly excited for That Awkward Moment’s cast. I give Efron the benefit of the doubt because in middle school I was a member of the High School Musical cult. Plus, at least in his movies he always tries, rather than skating by on his looks. Here, he is so bland that I kind of wish he had skated by on his looks. Michael B. Jordan gave one of the most talked-about performances of 2013 in Fruitvale Station. In That Awkward Moment, his character is so boring that I frequently forgot he was even present. Miles Teller has the great comedic skills and was the biggest draw for me after last year’s The Spectacular Now. Here, however, his sense of comic timing sometimes shines through but his character’s hackneyed dialogue is beyond rescue. Imogen Poots, who was naturally beautiful in films like Fright Night, is for some reason under heavy eyeliner for the entire movie in her role as Efron’s love interest. It is honestly amazing she could lift her eyes at all. In a scene at a funeral (I would say spoiler alert, but you probably don’t care), she puts on even more eyeliner.
This is a film in which Miles Teller’s defecating each time he comes to Zac Efron’s apartment is a running gag. Even some of the worthier jokes overextend their welcome, such as the remarks made when Michael B. Jordan sprays his penis with self-tanner, turning it orange. However, there is a feeling that the crudeness is tacked-on to make the film “edgy” and different from the usual PG-13 romantic comedies directed at women, which are brought into theaters in bulk every year.
Eventually, the film throws up its arms and follows the tradition of every other romantic comedy. At one point, Michael B. Jordan proclaims that he doesn’t understand why his wife left him — after all, he “checked all the boxes.” Let’s examine the boxes that That Awkward Moment checks. Dated pop culture references the writer probably found funny in 1998? Check. A word of advice dispensed to the film’s lead by a complete stranger at a bar? Check. Third-act conflict that feels completely unrealistic and manufactured? Check. Lead character’s showing up to a formal event in an inappropriate costume due to a misunderstanding about the term ‘dress-up’ party? Big check. Basically, That Awkward Moment is rom-com porn for guys.
Despite the attempt to portray the real lives of men in their twenties, the film offers no insights that couldn’t be otherwise discovered spending five minutes at a frat party. In his role as writer/director, Tom Gormican probably thought he was acting as the voice of his generation, and that’s the one thing about this movie that is truly awkward. If you want a rom-com from a guy’s perspective that is of high quality, check out 2009’s (500) Days of Summer. If you want a dark room to make out in, That Awkward Moment may just suffice.