By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The moment of truth alluded to in the title, That Awkward Moment, is the one that occurs when someone – otherwise known as the woman — in a romantic relationship asks where said relationship is GOING.
“So,” it inevitably starts, “just where are we? And what does this mean to you?”
“Uh oh,” it inevitably ends in the mind of the silent listener, “panic time.”
That Awkward Moment is a quirky R-rated romantic comedy set in New York City about the romantic and bromantic adventures of three twentysomething buddies.
In support of their physician pal, Mikey (Michael B. Jordan, from Fruitvale Station), still devastated by a recent breakup during which his wife cheated on and unceremoniously dumped him, best buddies Jason (Zac Efron, the film’s one marquee name) and Daniel (Miles Teller, from The Spectacular Now), partner book-jacket designers hoping to console him, make a vow: to refrain from officially dating, as opposed to hooking up, for as long as possible.
Sounds simple, remaining romantically unencumbered, but the plan collapses when all three struggling commitment-phobes tumble – Jason to fetching midwesterner Imogen Poots, Daniel to platonic friend Mackenzie Davis, Mikey to estranged wife Jessica Lucas.
Yep, the premise is tissue-paper flimsy and gimme-a-break contrived. And the genial tone and meandering pace add up to a complete absence of narrative momentum. That makes the film wholly dependent on the charm and chemistry of the trio of leads, which happens to be in abundance. But the episodic script runs out of steam so early, the principal actors spend their time doing what in comedy is considered heavy lifting: straining at banter and demonstrating a bit too self-consciously their mastery of comic timing.
Debuting writer-director Tom Gormican’s film, a gender-bent take on Sex and the City originally titled Are We Officially Dating?, is intended as a male’s-perspective take on the generic romcom. The com is a tad better than the rom here in a movie that mixes, with sporadic success, R-rated raunch with romantic sweetness.
Efron, who also served as one of the film’s executive producers, anchors the proceedings with his usual grace and effortless command. And Teller and Jordan stay right with him in their semi-improvisational glory. These are good young actors, but far too much is asked of them.
So we’ll fall for 2 stars out of 4 for That Awkward Moment. Surface charm covers a number of the film’s awkward moments, but too many still remain.