(C) Treehouse Pictures
Above anything else, the reason I wanted to watch That Awkward Moment was for its cast. Having recently endured Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four (see the review here), which stars (among others) Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, I was interested to see how their chemistry is in this film compared to Fantastic Four. Despite its cast of young, talented actors such as Zac Efron, Teller, Jordan and Imogen Poots, That Awkward Moment was considered a failure, making just $40 million worldwide, and compared to another Efron comedy – namely Bad Neighbours – which made $268 million. Regardless of poor box office takings and frosty critical reception (currently 6.1 on IMDb and 23% on Rotten Tomatoes), That Awkward Moment is a lot better than it’s given credit for.
That Awkward Moment stars Zac Efron as Jason, who alongside friend Daniel (Miles Teller) design front covers for books. After their friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) goes through a frosty break-up, the three best friends form a pact to remain single to help their bromance flourish. But fate seems determined to get in their way when Jason meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), an author who may just be the one. As each of the three meet their ideal girl, they will need to grapple between their pact and their heart, deciding whether to let their friends in on their secret.
The plot of That Awkward Moment itself is quite a mixed bag. It grapples with a few interesting – albeit not original – elements such as lying to friends and finding ‘the one’, which are handled with just enough care to pull them off well. The plot is well-planned and comes together nicely at the end, although towards the middle it definitely does trail as the pace dips to a slow crawl, a far cry from the faster pace of the rest of the film. The reason for this dip in pace is that there just isn’t enough plot to go around: the film’s premise is so simple, perhaps too simple for a feature film, since it definitely fades away at points and re-treads old ground at others. That said, most of the writing is handled well, with a couple of great jokes sprinkled throughout, and some of the running gags are good too, my particular favourite being Fred from Daniel and Jason’s company, who always talks as if he is on the phone. It was funny to start with, but when it’s brought back again unexpectedly it really pays off. The film I can most liken this too is American Pie – sure, it’s not nearly as good as the 1999 teen classic – but it hits a lot of the same beats and definitely shares the same branch of juvenile humour, which admittedly is very hard thing to pull off since most of the audience won’t be of that age.
The biggest issue That Awkward Moment faces is its dramatic change of tone about halfway through. The film starts off as quite a jovial, bro-centric affair, compounded by Efron’s funny opening voiceover, featuring plenty of juvenile sex jokes, and that’s when the film works best thanks to the good writing. It’s at this point where it definitely feels like American Pie, or moreover The Inbetweeners due to the awkward situations the characters face, most notably Miles Teller’s conundrum involving going to the toilet whilst erect. Yes, it’s incredibly silly, but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless. But that fun gets sucked out of the film around halfway through due to a major plot device which I won’t spoil here, where the tone gets considerably more depressing and grounded. It’s in this segment where there’s a lot more moping around, a lot more depressing moments and a lot less jokes. Yes, there’s a few sprinkled in there, but they feel out of place after this change of tone and don’t hit as hard as they may have if the tone hadn’t shifted so dramatically. The best way to put it is that a film which is, for all intents and purposes, 2014’s answer to American Pie, shouldn’t be so mopey, dramatic and depressing, especially when comparing it to the film’s solid first half.
Despite the film’s problems, the cast is by far its best factor. The three leads – Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan – are all fantastic here, each with their own arcs that are handled reasonably well and that are acted decently. They all get their moments to shine, despite the fact that Efron is the clear star of the show here, but it’s very easy to argue that Teller and Jordan eclipse him in this film due to their superior turns. My favourite performance here was easily Teller’s: I think he is indescribably funny at times and really has the comedic timing and delivery to go far, whilst also showcasing some nice range. He’s fast becoming one of my favourite actors, and that’s even after seeing some of his worse films, such as Divergent, Fantastic Four and 21 and Over. You can tell easily that the actors are having a great time together since their brand of humour is just so infectious, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of this film was improvised since their dialogue comes off so convincingly that they truly could be three best friends. The supporting cast is solid, although nothing special, aside from Need for Speed‘s Imogen Poots, who also puts in a great performance and gels with the three stars very well during her scenes.
From a technical point of view, That Awkward Moment is simply ‘meh’, due to some poor camera-work – I found some shots to be oddly out of focus and hard to watch – and a mediocre soundtrack – mostly consisting of strings and violins that while solid, doesn’t stand out at all.
Despite its problems, I don’t believe at all that That Awkward Moment deserves the slating it has recieved. Yes, it’s plot leaves quite a bit to be desired, but the cast are simply electric together, bouncing off each other frequently and delivering their lines sublimely, which really helps to bring this film up. It’s juvenile at times and dramatic at others, but aside from a jarring change of tone, pulls both of these elements off well. It’s not the next American Pie, but That Awkward Moment is a fun little comedy with a brilliant cast that I recommend nonetheless.