Comedy Film Review

Gamophobic Film Review: That Awkward Moment

January 31, 2014Ben MK

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Romance vs. bromance

By Ben Mk

Forget love and marriage, it all boils down to sex and romance — which, as can be painfully obvious sometimes, don't always go together like a horse and carriage. That same logic also applies to sex comedies and romantic comedies. But what happens when you try combining the two, and throwing a little bromance into the mix? That Awkward Moment happens.

Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) are two twenty-something friends just trying to navigate the relationship minefield that is New York's dating scene. And by navigate, they mean avoid altogether. The word "relationship" isn't even in their vocabulary; for them, it's all about casual encounters (or "keeping a roster", as Jason calls it). The moment things start to get serious — that awkward "So ... where is this going?" moment — it's quarter past time-to-get-out. Their friend, Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), doesn't share their perspective on relationships. He's a happily married, one-woman kind of guy — that is, until the day he's blindsided by news that his wife, Vera (Jessica Lucas), has been cheating on him and is seeking a divorce. To show their unwavering support for Mikey — and as an ultimate demonstration of their bromance — Jason and Daniel enter into a pact that they all stay single together. But keeping up their end of the agreement proves harder than anticipated, when things begin to heat up for them with Ellie (Imogen Poots) and Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). Suddenly, none of them knows which way is up, as they each try to adjust to the new normal — of either being in a real relationship or, as in Mikey's case, not.

Randomly name any romantic comedy, and nine times out of ten it fits the same mold — guy meets girl, guy falls for girl, guy botches things royally, and guy will do anything to win girl back. Dissect the genre norms even further and you'll arrive at the realization that rom-coms are dominated by a handful of archetypal roles and relationships. That Awkward Moment doesn't stray from the template and is essentially a melting pot for these different characterizations: Jason is the typical male romantic lead — handsome but emotionally stilted — with a fear of commitment; Daniel and Chelsea are the friends who end up becoming much more; and the heartbroken Mikey is the one struggling to pick up the pieces of his failed relationship and understand where things went astray. Whether or not the film succeeds in meeting the demands of these intersecting storylines hinges on moviegoers' expectations.

It's all about expectations, after all. Misaligned expectations are what get Jason, Daniel and Mikey into the sticky situations they find themselves in in the film; and, ultimately, how much or how little viewers enjoy watching them figure things out is contingent on how much of an exercise in genre tropes they're prepared to sit through. Whether it be the predictable romantic outcomes or its general lack of ambition to really earn its R-rating, That Awkward Moment plays it safe by erring on the side of caution. Once the characters and their situations are established, writer/director Tom Gormican shifts the film to auto-pilot — to follow the standard rom-com flight plan — leaving the actors to keep audiences engaged with their charisma. To give credit where credit is due, the photogenic cast do a good job of doing just that. They have an exuberant and appealing on-screen chemistry that offsets some of the blandness of the overall endeavour — it's just that they sometimes have to paddle against the tide for it to really shine through.

The Bottom Line

The concept of That Awkward Moment is solid, but the real awkwardness lies in its execution. Instead of providing interesting character studies, it's a hodgepodge of rom-com clichés that have come before. But even though it can be derivative, it still works on a basic level for taking audiences from point A to point B, thanks to the charm of its cast. Just make sure you don't watch it with anyone you may be in your own awkward moment with. [★★½]

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