Relationships are never easy and neither are movies about relationships. In THAT AWKWARD MOMENT, writer/director Tom Gormican focuses on three male 20-something best friends navigating the course of sex, love and relationships in 2014. Although falling into some genre tropes and cliche, Gormican keeps the ship of love steady as it treads through some rocky waters predicated on the relationship “So???” question (So, are we a couple? So, are we planning a future? So....). A constant buoy is the perfect meld of Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan. Together they are “The Three Musketeers” of comedy gold.
Jason and Daniel are happily single. Mikey thought he was happily married, until he finds out his wife is cheating on him - with her lawyer. Jason and Daniel work together in a publishing house designing book covers. Mikey is a successful ER doctor. And when Mikey is suddenly single, the three vow to stay that way; avoid all relationships, don’t get serious about any girls and just have fun, even if it means a string of endless one night stands. But the harder they try to stay single and fancy free, the more they each gravitate towards “the one”, and that’s what gives THAT AWKWARD MOMENT its heart.
No one does freewheeling casual lifestyle partying and living better than Miles Teller. As Daniel, he continues his winning streak of performances with again celebrating wine, women and song and does so brilliantly. Teller keeps the wheels of THAT AWKWARD MOMENT well oiled. But what sets him apart with performance is that even when mouthing off, being vulgar and flip, his fast talking often self-deprecating sarcasm comes across as beyond endearing. His comedic timing is perfection and the energy that he brings to the film as a whole, the character, and especially to the triumvirate of Mikey, Daniel and Jason, is what carries the film.
When you put Teller with Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan the three jump off the page, becoming a life force unto themselves. They are magical; a perfect blend of personas both on and off the screen. Handily slipping into some hospital scrubs, as Mikey, Jordan is the “old man” of the group. The responsible one, with a welcome ease Jordan embodies the worry that comes with life - cooking, cleaning, courtesy and caring. Zac Efron, the handsome leading man type of the bunch is actually the weakest link in the chain, surprising after his strong dramatic turn in At Any Price with Dennis Quaid. His strong suit however is that as Jason, Efron captures the youthful exuberance of a man in his 20's who is trying to find his footing - be it a frat boy kinda guy or an upstanding relationship/future oriented guy. Unfortunately, he never finds a comfortable groove of balancing the two sides of the coin which becomes distracting as opposed to Teller who has such a natural and organic ease in being both.
But THAT AWKWARD MOMENT isn’t all about the boys as Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis more than hold their own against the boys, particularly Davis who shines with a naturalism that is refreshing, wafting through the film like a warm summer wind. Poots is ideally cast as Efron’s romantic interest and has somewhat of a more visible emotional arc with her portrayal of Ellie, adding some relationship gravitas thanks to the death of Ellie’s father and immaturity of Efron’s Jason. As Chelsea, Davis delights with a more than affable chemistry with Teller. Watching the two blossom into coupledom as Danny and Chelsea is a real highlight within the construct of the story. Adding his own level of bumbling hilarity to the mix is Josh Pais as Danny and Jason’s co-worker Fred.
As a first time writer/director, Tom Gormican more than impresses. Although the script is weak in parts and loses momentum with things like work and book cover design falling by the wayside and has you wondering, "huh?", on the whole, the result is enjoyable and funny with a few notes of poignancy. The jokes are free-flowing and I can't stress enough the fun of Efron, Jordan and Teller together with everything from tanning lotion turning penises orange, to hanging strap-on penises, to fart jokes (boys will always be boys) to the drunken debauchery. The magic is there and it works.
Eye-catching and enticing is Ethan Tobman's production design. Each apartment and house is celebratory of the individual, capturing the varying socio-economic stratas of life as well as the emotional maturity of each of the characters. The white on white of the hospital and Mikey's apartment with soon to be ex-wife Vera is a gorgeous contrast and metaphoric tell for the sterile life that Mikey has led while the rich brick and color of posters, covers, comics, mismatched sheets, etc. of Jason's apartment is him to a tee - fun-loving, living life but an eclectic mess trying to sort through the colors of life while embracing them all. The perfect middle ground in both character and visual design is Chelsea. The lovely sunlit warmth of a grown-up, well apportioned but very comfortable apartment (not to mention liquor trolley in the bedroom) is perfection.
Demonstrating a keen eye and ability to showcase the physical textures of production design with the added elements of light and lens, the work of cinematographer Brandon Trost is beyond satisfying. Celebrating the individuality and eclectic natures of the characters with a wonderful polish that is textured with light and shadow proves more than effective in weaving the tapestry of story and character.
Although some awkward moments in the third act trip things up a bit with some unnecessary convolutions of story, on the whole, there's nothing awkward about THAT AWKWARD MOMENT.
Written and Directed by Tom Gormican
Cast: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Mackenzie Davis, Imogen Poots