When Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller feature in what looks to be a standard rom com, you'd rightly hope that these terrific young performers with impeccable recent choices on their resume could elevate the material. Don't be fooled, That Awkward Moment (retitled Are We Officially Dating for Australian audiences) takes a tired 90s feeling premise, promptly forgets it and meanders for an excruciating ninety minutes only to deliver its best material in the outtakes.
After Mikey (Jordan) discovers that his wife is having an affair he returns to single life with his two best friends Jason and Daniel (Efron & Teller). To encourage him to be outgoing they promise that they won't commit to a relationship but shucks, as 'Murphy's Law' and Jesus and the other movie gods would have it, it's harder than it sounds.
Writer/director Tom Gormican is trying to explore conflicting ideas resulting in a film that fundamentally doesn't know what it is. The script is as frustrating as changing directions on a sat nav. It starts out with an honest Judd Apatow/Kevin Smith-esque tale of twenty-something promiscuity and the developed method of a roster of girls Jason and Dan enjoying the fruits of their labour. Unfortunately once they're attempting to comfort Mikey in the wake of a brutal discovery of infidelity it takes a hard left toward a rehashing of high school 'bet' triviality that sees the friends encourage his return to the single life with a bet that denies any of them commitment. Finally Gormican can't resist but attempt of Family Guy/Seth McFarlane 'random' like Jason misunderstanding 'dress-up' and attending a formal party as 'rock-out-with-your-cock-out.' The depths of the failure is none more evident in the moment that Jason, who begins to be smitten with Ellie (Imogen Poots), has a choice to support her in the wake of a sudden death in the family and instead of attending the funeral he decides that staying true to the bet is more important that comforting grief, despite the advice from his friends. Such a callow move from the main character in a film, that even in poster form does not bury the lead, leaves you unsuccessfully grasping of any redeeming factors.
Efron, Teller and Jordan all do their best work in this film when they're allowed free rein. Bouncing off of each other, drinking in Jason's apartment playing XBOX or grabbing a cup of coffee they're reaching for the those fleeting but unforgettable moments of 40 Year Old Virgin between Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen fighting over who is the gayest friend. However, once they're forced to enunciate each laborious syllable of smothering contrivance you're begging for something; humour, authenticity or quirk. Poots' Ellie is the highlight. She's organic and fresh in a way that cuts through the plasticine narrative construct.
Are we officially dating? or That Awkward Moment is an awkward proposition for all involved; it’s officially garbage.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Tom Gormican
Written by: Tom Gormican
Starring: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.