“That Awkward Moment” Review

Courtesy of Focus Features
Courtesy of Focus Features

I tried giving “That Awkward Moment” at least some credit for attempts at originality by using a hashtag as its title — until the Internet told me this was apparently done in 2012. In a way, learning this made me happy, because it kept the movie from having any redeeming qualities. If it weren’t for the talent-laden cast that had to force themselves through a script riddled with cliches and middle school bathroom humor, then I would’ve given it zero out of five stars — but even then, that’d be insulting to the best lowbrow films of 2013.

“That Awkward Moment” follows Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller as Jason, Mikey and Daniel, young adults living together in a bachelor pad in New York City. When Mikey learns that his wife is leaving him, Jason and Daniel decide to swear off girlfriends; not only do they agree to continue their flings with women on their “rosters,” but they also make a pact to stay single forever. However, Jason and Daniel encounter obvious obstacles along their commitment to staying single: Jason meets the love of his life, Ellie (Imogen Poots) in the middle of living up his life of one-night-stands, while Daniel falls for his friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis).

It’s almost impossible to identify with any of the movie’s male leads. Rookie director Tom Gormican directed the movie with the intent of making them charming, but the results are nauseating. The three turn out to be complete douchebags whose worldviews are the crossroads of a 13-year-old’s sense of humor and a stereotypical frat boy’s misogynistic view of women. Jason, with perfectly chiseled abs and embarrassingly patchy facial hair, constantly complains about how it’s “difficult” for perfect women to “find” him, the obvious Prince Charming who stands above and beyond the crowd. Meanwhile, Daniel’s attempts at humor — through his indecisiveness over his potential love interest — fall flat. There is a scene that involves a phone call between Daniel and Jason, and their troubles with urinating after taking Viagra, which typifies the movie’s obsession with raunchy humor. I can’t say that a few of the uncreative lines here and there didn’t make me chuckle, but that’s the most the movie got out of me.

What’s worse about the writing is that it attempts to come off as completely hip and refreshing, which immediately fails with the hashtag title. What sounds more exciting and suspenseful than the synopsis of “three self-entitled men find love through the women that they mistreat?” Answer: Everything else. If Gormican wants to have a promising career, he should stay away from used-up rom-com tropes that disallow character development.

Speaking of promising careers, it’s disappointing to see such great young actors waste their time in a movie like this. Zac Efron is well known for his role in “High School Musical,” and has been slowly building up his acting chops since then, having starred in the critically acclaimed “Hairspray” — and even Roger Ebert thought his high school-styled “17 Again” was more than decent. On the other side of the coin, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan had breakout roles last year in “The Spectacular Now” and “Fruitvale Station,” respectively, both of which received near-universal, Oscar-buzz worthy praise. Given the tremendous talent that these three possess, they do manage to fit into their roles as try-hard bros who still think they’re in college, but fortunately for the movie, they can act well enough to put a little charm into their characters. It’s this added charm that saves the movie from being completely bad. Granted, it’s still unwatchable, but that’s just the script’s fault, and has nothing to do with their performances. Hopefully, for the sake of themselves as well as for cinema’s future, Efron, Jordan and Teller can learn from the mistake of signing onto “That Awkward Moment” before their careers go any further.

The cinematography is fairly nice. Brandon Trost, who did the cinematography for “MacGruber” and “This is the End,” places the three male leads in a naturalistic environment that, in a handful of shots, makes the background of New York seem quite beautiful. It doesn’t take the focus away from the movie’s lack of humor, but it’s still one of the few things worth appreciating.

“That Awkward Moment” is essentially one long awkward moment that lasts for 90 minutes, and the thing that sets it apart from other movies is its only weakness: how depressingly unfunny it is.

Rating: 1 star

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