Most of the awkward moments must have happened in the editing bay. While kitted out with an impressively charming cast, Tom Gormican’s clichéd “That Awkward Moment” suffers from the kind of overly snippy editing that doesn’t tighten up sequences or streamline character traits, but the type that renders whole sequences confusing and entire characters the victim of chopped up narrative aims. Simply put – the most awkward thing about “That Awkward Moment” is that the majority of it just doesn’t make much sense and, as a relatively light-hearted spin on the romantic comedy genre, it absolutely should.
Gormican’s feature debut (the writer and director has one other credit to his name – as a co-producer for “Movie 43”) centers on three best friends who are all in various states of disarray over their romantic lives. The trio have been friends since college, but Michael B. Jordan’s Mikey apparently tapped out on their running game early, marrying his school sweetheart at the tender age of twenty-three. Zac Efron’s Jason and Miles Teller’s Daniel have run wild ever since, and while the news that Mikey’s marriage is ostensibly over seems vaguely upsetting to them, they’re mainly just jazzed that they can pull Mikey back into their search for fresh meat.
The guys come up with a plan – they will all stay single together – that’s only brought back up when absolutely necessary, which means that it’s frequently forgotten and then reclassified to meet needs. (Later in the film, the pact is referred to as a bet, though there are never any stakes or set time limits, and there’s certainly no one vying to win anything from it.) Despite the slack nature of said plan (pact, bet, whatever), it coyly triggers opposite responses – Jason begins falling for the wily and carefree Ellie (Imogen Poots), while Daniel and best gal pal/former wingman Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) start up their own clandestine affair, and even Mikey gets cozy with the last person he should feel endeared to. Of course, all of the guys lie to each other, everyone sneaks around, and the outing of secrets is both wholly inevitable and oddly without tension.
Choppily put together, the film frequently feels as if it’s missing key bits of exposition and character-building, and its often-jumpy transitions keep things confusing instead of allowing it to be amusing or entertaining. A hefty number of the film’s characters simply don’t react to things with expected or even average emotional responses – one character’s wife cheats on him and he never exhibits believable signs of either anger or sadness, another character allows the douchebag who skipped out on her father’s Thanksgiving Day funeral to still post cute cat videos on her Facebook page (anyone else would have unfriended the bastard) – robbing the film of even the most tenuous grasp on reality.
And tenuous it is, as “That Awkward Moment,” like plenty of films of its kind, doesn’t adhere too closely to reality in even broad details. Jason and Daniel are book cover designers – a career path that apparently affords them spacious New York City apartments and an entirely drinkable income, though their works of art don’t seem especially unique or interesting. While nearly everyone’s apartment is far bigger than it should believably be (though Mikey and Vera’s place looks about right for a young career couple), it seems as if the set design team at least got a banger of a deal on ikat textiles (everyone’s sheets and curtains look oddly similar). Rom-coms don’t generally seem to exist in “the real world,” but “That Awkward Moment” willfully bucks details both big and small, and the result is something oddly fake and emotionally empty.
The film is laden (and leaden) with romantic comedy tropes from another eras – hooky coincidences, woodenly delivered lines, minor misunderstandings played for big laughs, and even a final act “big spectacle” to show emotion – that don’t rile nearly as much as the film’s other elements, simply because they’re comforting amidst all the mish-mash. What the film does have is three highly likable male leads who have all proven their worth in other outings, along with a pair of leading ladies (Poots and Davis) who have charm to spare. But the messy final product never allows things to click together, even with such a talented and young cast ready to deliver what could have been an at least passable attempt at revitalizing the rom-com.
SCORE: 4.3 / 10