When HBO released Sex and the City, it set something of a precedent by making real stories for real women, like no other show had prior. The crux of that warm reception, is of course, when something becomes successful it’s only a matter of time before other people want to pilfer & ape the original – many times over. This my dear readers is exactly what the newly reshuffled Focus Features has done in it’s newest release, the Zach Efron helmed That Awkward Moment.
Here, instead of Manolo Blahniks, martinis and four women trying to find their way in the big city; we get 3 noncommittal men, Viagra, and prowess for video games and sports jackets. First-time writer/director Tom Gormican picks up That Awkward Moment with Efron’s pretty-boy Jason, sitting alone in a darkened corner of Gramercy Park, pondering about the selfish decisions he made recently in his life that has led him to his current predicament. See, from Jason’s viewpoint, every relationship usually starts out great but then ends up in the same position – the moment when one person wants to take everything to the next level, but doesn’t know how their significant other is going to react; coincidentally, this is usually the moment Jason cuts ties and turns tail.
Turns out, Jason isn’t the only one effected by the awkward moment as college roommate Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), now a NYC physician, comes home early one day from the office to find his wife having an affair and wants a divorce. In an effort to lick his wounds and put his life back-on-track, Mickey seeks the help of Jason, and Jason’s illustrating book-cover partner Daniel (Miles Teller), by moving in to what may be the ultimate bachelor pad, or just simply a holding phase in the lives of these late 20-somethings. As days go by and Mikey’s divorce becomes much more of a reality, all three gents soon find themselves weeding their “roster” of potential ladies down to a mere three. There’s Ellie (Imogen Poots) an eager book publisher tackling Jason, while Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) has Daniel but only as a proverbial new-era girlfriend/wing-woman role, while Mikey – well he has his wife Vera (Jessica Lucas) – if you count the mutually agreed-upon endless string of sexcapades, which neither party has told their friends about. The problem is that, in an effort to maximize the monumental occasion that all three friends are in the prime of their lives and single for possibly the last time, the boys vow to stay single – of course leading all of them to find love.
Okay, so admittedly That Awkward Moment could have worked – let me repeat again by emphasizing – could here. The unfortunate incident is that the fault is in the setup. We get a premise that is Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour Lost, which I can get behind, but from the opening to last credit roll, Gromican has only taken the aforementioned premise as an initial guideline and allowed the story to be devoid of nuance and individual voice. What is left is something far more resembling something like 1986’s About Last Night, mixed with a half-assed attempt at rekindling the chemistry of the Swingers’ clan that brought Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau into the sight lines of Hollywood. Gromican rehashes, reshapes and a remodels material which adds no new perception on the male view of relationships, finding oneself in the now-dreaded Quarter Life Crisis or the sheer inner conflict of experiencing something as cumbersomely freeing as the late 20’s.
Writing aside here, The Awkward Moment isn’t a complete loss. Brandon Trost (Crank: High Voltage) brings in some nicely captured and seldomly seen angles of NYC to make the city feel like another character in the script, while David Torn’s music supervision doesn’t necessarily provided a completely flowing and emotionally driven collection of songs to keep cohesiveness, but we get a nice soundtrack to get through the next few wintery months.
All three onscreen leads do have an undeniable chemistry together that is altogether enough to make up for the holes in writing and the uncomfortable silences. Efron, has been handed a job that is pretty much in his wheelhouse. Miles Teller – well, Teller is Teller here. The Spectacular Now breakout does appear a bit too big occasionally and the role itself is pretty close to what we have seen prior, but Teller’s naturalistic and sincere work with counterpart Davis here easily makes up for any overshooting. Finally, Michael B. Jordan, sadly isn’t going to be bolstering headlines, as he’s underutilized from start to finish – guess you can’t win them all. Overall, for Jordan and Teller, who have just come off a strain of successfully solid and critically praised projects, I can’t imagine That Awkward Moment is going to (or need to) be listed high on the list of accomplishments for too long, but for Efron, the High School Musical grad is still gonna need to keep searching for some firmer ground to stand on.
Finally, for newcomer Gormican, he has a visual storytelling style that really knows how to use locations, but the young director may want to try and hand off the writing reigns for his next feature, or at least let us hear something original.
Watch the trailer here.