What a strange, disjointed movie “That Awkward Moment” is. It’s shot extremely professionally, on gorgeously rendered downtown streets in Manhattan, yet it’s also full of sophomoric sex jokes. It’s a conscious throwback to dude-centered romantic comedies of the ’90s and early 2000s like “Swingers” and “The Tao of Steve,” yet very conspicuously set in the “hookup culture” of today.
There’s some entertaining stuff here, and first-time writer/director Tom Gormican appears capable of much better. But ultimately the tone is just all over the place, and there are just about no stakes.
Zac Efron and Miles Teller star as mid-20s Manhattan bachelors, both happily unencumbered with relationships, while Michael B. Jordan is their doctor buddy, recently dumped by his wife. In a first act that resembles that of “Swingers,” Efron and Teller are doing everything they can to get their down-on-his-luck friend laid.
Eventually the three of them reach a pact amongst themselves to remain single, a plot point so poorly established that it doesn’t begin to hold up as the key to the whole movie.
Before long the three of them all break the pledge while going out of their way to keep the truth from their buddies- Jordan with his ex, Teller with a gal pal of the group and Efron- through a misunderstanding that’s not nearly as hilarious or believable as the movie thinks it is- with a woman (Imogen Poots) who he first mistakes for a hooker.
So we have a film with a serious look and a serious premise, which keeps interrupting itself for atonal, not-that-funny sex jokes that seem lifted from the “American Pie” series.
There’s a lot here that doesn’t make much sense. Efron’s character is much more of a loathsome douchebag than the movie feels comfortable acknowledging or admitting- I mean, the guy is practically a sociopath, and the actor isn’t nearly up to the task of playing him that way.
Since Jordan’s character is a relatively mature doctor and generally decent guy, and his two friends are goofball degenerates who haven’t begun to grow up, it doesn’t make much sense that he’s friends with them. As for the female characters, they’re unhealthily wispy, both literally and figuratively. They practically don’t exist.
There are a few funny things- like when Efron misunderstands what a “dress-up party” is, or an amusing running joke about white people being unfamiliar with Morris Chestnut. All three lead actors are capable of much better, especially Teller (see “The Spectacular Now“!) and Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”!, not to mention the beginning of The Wire and end of Friday Night Lights.)
But everyone- including a director who I’m convinced will one day do better than this- is ill-served by such a weak, jumbled movie.