There’s scarcely an original thought to be found in That Awkward Moment, the self-proclaimed “modern” romantic comedy debut of Tom Gormican, and that won’t matter one bit to the majority of its target audience. With stars as ebullient and zeitgeisty as Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Imogen Poots, there was never much need for the film bring anything new to the table. Still, it would have been nice if Gormican, who both wrote and directed, could have relied a little less heavily on genre clichés.
Efron, Teller and Jordan star as a trio of successful, handsome twentysomethings sharing an apartment in New York City. Jason (Efron) is the perpetual player, devoted to one night stands and resolute in his determination to stay detached from all commitment. Daniel (Teller) shares Jason’s hedonistic outlook, though he clearly feels less strongly about staying single than his buddy. Their friend Mikey (Jordan), on the other hand, is happily married – that is, until his wife (Jessica Lucas) slams him with divorce papers and the revelation that she’s been sleeping around. In hopes of comforting Mikey as he gets back out into the dating world, Jason and Daniel agree to partake in a pact: none of them will enter into relationships, instead reveling in the single life for as long as humanly possible. Things get complicated when Jason connects with the unforgettable Ellie (Poots), Daniel falls for friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), and Mikey starts to reconcile with his ex.
It’s a set-up that has been done many times before, and Gormican fails to add anything to it. Alert viewers will be able to pinpoint exactly where this story is going by the half-hour mark, and nothing surprises whatsoever past that point. Strangely, this adherence to formula is what prevents That Awkward Moment from working well as a film. Gormican pushes too hard to line every character up to rom-com tradition, to the degree where none of them appear to be acting in even remotely rational ways. When you’ve got actors as capable of inhabiting characters as Efron, Teller, Jordan and Poots, that’s a real shame.
That Awkward Moment also suffers from strange continuity problems. Something didn’t quite work in the screenplay or the editing room (likely both), and so I was thrown for a loop during a few scenes that appear to contradict each other. Those kinds of mistakes threaten to derail the film in places, though its actors get it back on track. That’s not to say that Gormican’s writing is a weak spot; on the contrary, he penned some hilarious scenes for this film, and some of the raunchier material is both terrifically funny and oddly believable. It’s in the transitions and set-up that Gormican struggles with more noticeably.
The actors are what save That Awkward Moment from becoming unbearable. Efron has really come into his own as an actor lately, and his ability to remain charming even as Jason’s actions horrify make me wonder how he’d fair in a solely villainous role. For this part, he’s playing a character every audience member has met before, and he does it quite well. Teller is even better, bringing an oddball charisma to his character and nailing every quip. Jordan, more of a dramatic actor than anything else, also proves himself an adept comedian – I’m looking forward to seeing him in more three-dimensional comedy roles in the future.
My favorite performance in That Awkward Moment, however, is Poots’s. With her piercing blue eyes and impeccable delivery, she is a knockout in every sense of the word, effortlessly selling her character’s tricky emotional journey. Though Ellie is introduced as a flat romantic interest for Jason, Poots makes her dynamic, funny and completely charming. In a less well-written supporting role, Davis also conjures up surprising depth to play Chelsea, turning in the film’s most natural performance.
With all these great actors, it’s a little depressing that That Awkward Moment quickly falls prey to the tedious tropes that have largely defined Hollywood romantic comedies for the past decade. The film earns points for making me laugh in places, but no one actor gets the chance to shine as brightly as they should. What should have been a strong romantic comedy is instead rendered merely passable.
The 1080p transfer that Sony gave That Awkward Moment is tops, as always. The color palette employed by Gormican is vibrant and alive, skin tones are all appropriately natural, New York City looks great and details are strong throughout. Similarly, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track puts priority on crisp, sharp dialogue but still leaves enough room for background sound effects like glasses clinking, traffic rumbling in the distance and other assorted city sounds. Clarity is absolutely terrific, as per usual with these Sony releases.
That Awkward Moment comes with a modest selection of extras, including:
- Moment of Truth: Behind the Scenes (9:40)
- Threesomes: More Awkward Moments (9:07)
- Meet the Characters Featurettes (3:53 together)
- Extended Gag Reel (3:40)
The winner here is definitely “Moment of Truth: Behind the Scenes,” a making-of featurette that focuses heavily on how Gormican approached writing, casting and shooting this film. In it, viewers hear about Gormican’s efforts to put a realistic spin on the romantic comedy genre, what led him to cast his three leads, and what it was like filming in New York City. The actors offer their ideas about the film as well, with Teller’s insights proving to be the most ruthlessly funny. He treats the featurette like a joke, deadpanning about how he only took the film because he wanted to work with Efron after seeing The Lorax, and also ribbing Gormican. “Tom Gormican is literally the devil,” he explains at one point. It’s good for a laugh, and fans of the film will appreciate insights from the cast and crew.
“Threesomes: More Awkward Moments” is a lot less formal, consisting of an interview with Efron, Teller and Jordan, all relaxing on a couch in between takes. The actors get a little more personal in this featurette, discussing how their own relationships and experiences with dating allowed them to get closer to the script. The trio keep it light, however, playfully sniping at one another and sharing embarrassing tales from set. Teller has a particularly good one: on a flight he took with Jordan, Teller observed his co-star weeping at the end of Spider-Man.
The “Meet the Characters” extras are really extended trailers which focus on one character at a time. There are featurettes for Daniel, Ellie, Jason and Mikey. None of them really add anything to understanding the characters, so they aren’t worth your time.
The extended gag reel is also a slight disappointment, considering its small runtime. Still, Teller has some hilarious ad-libs, and all of the actors had a lot of fun making That Awkward Moment, so it’s somewhat fun to watch them goofing around during takes.
That Awkward Moment doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, though more demanding viewers will wish that it at least tried to shake things up a little bit. The combined strength of its actors carry the film and just about overcome an overly familiar plot, and Gormican manages to pull off a few really terrific jokes. Nothing’s amiss with the Blu-Ray package, from strong video and audio to above-average special features. All in all, That Awkward Moment is breezy and forgettable fun.
That Awkward Moment falls into the same mess of rom-com cliches it seems to be trying to undercut, but the ebullient charm of its young cast just about saves it.