MRR Review: "That Awkward Moment"

Photo Credit: Focus Features

Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: January 31, 2014
Directed by: Tom McGormican
Genre: Comedy / Romance

"That Awkward Moment" started with a highly acclaimed screenplay back in 2010. Several years and a name change later, it is director Tom Gormican's freshman effort anchored by an all-star cast that includes Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan. The movie follows friends Jason, Mikey and Daniel, who make a pact to be single together after one of them suffers a tough break-up. Of course, romance ensues.

A key reason this movie works is because it sticks to the 90-minute rule of romantic comedies. In general, a romantic comedy needs to be at least 90 minutes to develop a romance in which audiences become invested, but if the run time is much longer, audience interest begins to wane. At a crisp 94 minutes, "That Awkward Moment" gets the job done exactly as intended. The action begins early when Jason and Daniel decide to help their friend Mikey get over his recent break-up by taking him out for a night of fun and even cleverly slip him some Viagra by telling him it's a mint. Of course, Jason and Daniel meet and become increasingly involved with Ellie and Chelsea, played by Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis, respectively. The men decide that if they keep the relationships casual, seeing the women just one day per week, they are not really breaking the pact.

Parts of "That Awkward Moment" are reminiscent of a guy-centric version of the popular television program "Girls" — but much less whiny and self-deprecating. Jason, Mikey and Daniel are 20-somethings living in the city. At this point in their lives, they should have everything, but forming meaningful romantic relationships seems to be a particular challenge for them. They're flustered by their inability to understand exactly what it is that constitutes a relationship or with how much immediacy they should progress. As a result, they are tripped up by those awkward moments that are a struggle to overcome in the early stages of romance. Hence, the very apt title. As with "Girls," the humor is often understated and situational. Some of the biggest laughs are when the friends are trying to deny just how deeply they're beginning to feel for their new interests. There is a certain amount of comedic irony behind the idea that in trying to hide their relationships from each other, they're hiding from their own feelings as well.

Unlike the television series to which it can loosely be compared, "That Awkward Moment" is not aimed almost exclusively toward young, 20-something women. Rather, it has multigenerational appeal. It also makes the perfect date movie because it appeals to both women and men. Indeed, viewers of all ages can identify with the discomfort of reaching relationship keystones such as meeting their friends for the first time, meeting a new partner's parents for the first time, revealing your inner insecurities, and, subsequently, that initial fear that follows when you realize that rather than turn you off to a person, those awkward moments are what made you fall in love.

Of course, the humor isn't simply in the gaffes of new relationships. There is a significant amount of comedy that addresses how men and women handle romance and break-ups differently. At one point in the film, Efron's Jason character asks Jordan's Mikey if he is Bridget Jones when Mikey expresses a desire to quell his break-up depression with ice cream. In another scene, the opposing perspectives of at which point in a relationship men and women think it's appropriate to have sex is played off in a dialogue between two characters who have just had sex after having known each other for only one night.

"I was going to make you wait, like, 40 days," she says.

"I was going to make you wait, too," he says, "Then I realized I'm a dude."

Overall, the movie does a very good job at driving home the message best expressed by Poots' Ellie character, "Being there for someone when they need you, that's all relationships are." With that message, "That Awkward Moment" manages to elevate itself beyond the typical romantic comedy as a movie that is as much about relationships as romance and lends it a certain amount of complexity. It's just as important to be there for one's friends as it is for a romantic partner. In committing to each other, the three friends provide the support that each needs to move forward in life.

The journey of "That Awkward Moment" from a screenplay that received a lot of accolades to the big screen comes full circle with the finished product. The movie plays beautifully off the screenplay in a way that highlights the careful interweaving of relationships and romance and then deconstructs them again through brilliant writing, skilled directing and convincing acting.

Rating: 3 out of 5