The insufferable bro-dogg-susceptible post-college romantic milieu of the city-bound white male is at the center of Tom Gormican’s new romcom That Awkward Moment; You know, that time when you’ve mastered the art of the pick-up, but are clearly a long way for mastering the art of the stay-with or even the be-decent-to. That Awkward Moment is a mildly offensive film about the lies young men tell to preserve their would-be machismo. This is a film where handsome and ostensibly charming swains and rakes tool around New York, flippishly referring to potential mates as hookers, but who are still eventually rewarded with feely lessons about being there for the right person at the right time.
The film follows a trio of loutish Lotharios (Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan) who swear a half-hearted vow of relationship-lessness when Jordan’s character finds his wife wants to divorce him. Immediately thereafter, Efron meets dreamgirl Imogen Poots, Teller finds that he feels more than friendship for a close buddy (Mackenzie Davis), and even Jordan feels that he may have a shot with his wife (Jessica Lucas) again. Because of this half-hearted bro-code vow, though, the three men feel compelled to lie, to connive, and to treat their new girlfriends/wives openly badly. They make the usual foolish decisions that men make in romantic comedies (Efron wears a wild sexy costume to a fancy dress ball! Wa-hey!), but they also are largely reprehensible people, all because “being a relationship” is, in the mind of the post-college lout, antithetical to manhood.
Learning to grow out of your over-confident, sexually destructive, ignorant, sexist, loutish period may have made for a worthwhile story, but That Awkward Moment spends the bulk of its time with horrible young men you don’t want to spent time with. It’s men behaving badly, but all under the aegis of light charm and loving romance.
The cast is really trying. Efron, still seen as a graduate of the squeaky-clean Disney school (although he now in his mid-20s), is actually a sparkling and capable screen presence who is working really hard to prove his range as a performer; Yes, he cusses and gets naked and talks about his genitals, all with aplomb. My problem is not with him. Nor is it with Miles Teller, affable, natural, and amazing, who may one day be a widespread heartthrob along the lines of John Cusack. Even the underused Jordan is funny. These three actors improvise and giggle and seem to be giving their comedic all to a film that deserves less of their energy.
But the screenplay ultimately hamstrings any lasting impression That Awkward Moment may have had. The one-liners are flat, the climax is derivative of just about any romcom you may have seen ever (the final scene is a grand romantic gesture in a public place, and you’ll probably want to claw your own face off), and the fact that we have to spend 90 minutes with these boorish, insensitive, lecherous, rude, self-indulgent, wannabe macho men is enough to put you off your popcorn.
There are hints of charm lurking about in a film like This Awkward Moment. But they’re not so notable that you’d want to watch the rest of the film to get to them.