Writer/director Tom Gormican has certainly established a voice for his debut feature, “That Awkward Moment,” but unfortunately, it is a grotesque, immature, and cheerfully misogynistic voice, one that I would not want to hear a second time.
Miles Teller, Zac Efron, and Michael B. Jordan play three young successful pretty worry-free guys in Manhattan who have sex often and with lovely partners. They tell some pointless lies to people they allegedly care for, feelings are hurt, and then everything works out exactly the way they want it to and they have more success and more sex and everyone is, as I mentioned, gorgeous.
That’s it. That’s the story. That’s all the complications you can look forward to. That’s all the drama you can expect. There are lots of very cheap bathroom jokes, lots of sub-Mamet vulgar banter, and then some miserably executed romantic comedy mechanics. By hiring Teller, Efron, and Jordan, Gormican buys himself a certain amount of audience good will. Teller is establishing himself as a guy who can handle the heaviest drama and who also has a loose and funny persona that can shrug off all the darkness. Efron confuses me. I’m not sure if he’s a talented guy who just hasn’t found the right film yet or if he’s a pretty kid who has coasted on his looks farther than anyone would have reasonably expected. Jordan is on everyone’s radar at this point, and he’s going to be able to work in big blockbusters and personal indies whenever he wants. The three of them together are able to keep a scene up and moving even when the scene it total junk on the page, and for a while, “That Awkward Moment” almost seems charming.
But Gormican’s world view is wretched. The worst thing in the world is the thought of emotional connection. Women are meant to be used for a short period of time and then cast aside. All that matters is the connection to other men. There is a sweaty, unpleasant subtext to all of this. Jason (Efron), Daniel (Teller), and Mikey (Jordan) are friends from college. Mikey is a married doctor, but as the film opens, his wife informs him that she’s been having sex with her lawyer, and she wants a divorce. Jason and Daniel take this as an opportunity to make a pledge that all of them will remain single forever and just hang out with each other. No girls allowed.
Is that really a concept worth exploring as a feature film at this point? If so, then why not really deal with it? Why not get to the heart of what it is in men that would make them make a pledge to feel nothing, to let no one get close, to care about nothing beyond the next empty sex they can get. And in a movie where you’re Miles Teller, Zac Efron, and Michael B. Jordan, you can close the deal every single night. The only reason these people have any difficulty with anything is because of their own choices, their own actions. Teller’s favorite wingman is a girl named Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), and from the very first scene they play together, it’s obvious they are the perfect couple and they’re going to be a couple, and the only reason there’s ever any complication is because Miles Teller tells her a dumb lie for no reason at all.
Likewise, Jason meets the perfect girl, Ellie (Imogen Poots), and every “problem” they face is either adorable like him showing up dressed wrong for a party or mistaking her for a hooker, or something as fundamental as him not showing up for a funeral. It’s just manufactured and cloying and stupid, because these guys are “revealed” to be (of course) the perfect guys, caring and tender and emotionally open, and to try to play both of those things in one movie just doesn’t work. It’s mechanical. it’s phony. It’s annoying.
Another part of why I disliked it so strongly is because it can’t decide if it’s willing to be a take-no-prisoners gross comedy or if it’s a tender sweet movie, and the constant whiplash between the two doesn’t work at all. The film looks expensive and slick, and the cast is all very good at making these scenes look like they’re real scenes in a real movie, but it is so fundamentally false that I can’t help but see the seams. It is a collection of rancid parts sprinkled with a slick cover to try to hide how hollow it is.
Skip this one. The stars deserve better, and the audience does, too.
“That Awkward Moment” opens in theaters everywhere tomorrow.