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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

That Awkward Moment: Awkwardly Funny, or Just Awkward?

Most romantic comedies are set up the same way: the quirky but cute female protagonist, who “isn’t like the other girls”, goes through a series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and misfortunes until she winds up in the arms of her One True Love. It’s a formula as old as time – or at least as old as cinema – and I can count on two hands the number of female-led romantic comedies that don’t follow this model.

But what do you get when you make a male-led romantic comedy? Put writer/director Tom Gormican at the helm, and cast the mixed bag of Zac Efron, Michael B Jordan, and Miles Teller, and you get exactly what you expect: That Awkward Moment.

Credit Treehouse Pictures

That Awkward Moment is the story of three best friends in their late twenties trying to navigate that space between hooking up and dating. Zac Efron plays Jason, an egotistical player ready to do whatever it takes to avoid a relationship; Miles Teller is Daniel, the group’s jokester who talks a big game while secretly falling for his best female friend; and Michael B Jordon plays Mikey, a young doctor who discovers his wife’s infidelity and struggles between trying to save the relationship and moving on. At the encouragement of Jason and Daniel, all three of them make a pact: they’ll stay single. Go out, hook up, and have fun – no relationships. The moment they make that pact, though, is the moment they all meet someone special.

I’ve seen a lot of vitriol and disdain in many of this film’s reviews, and it’s made me wonder: what were the reviewers expecting to see? From the trailer alone, it’s clear that this is a romantic comedy from a guy’s perspective, and the film gives you exactly that. You get three protagonists, men who are best friends, navigating the New York dating scene in their late twenties. There were a lot of jokes, most of them of the sexual- or bathroom-humour variety, and a good number of them were funny. Myself, my girlfriends, and the two guys on dates in the row in front of us thought so, judging by the laughter. Maybe other reviewers were expecting something more from the movie? Maybe they wanted the premise to be more than it was advertised. Maybe they have a more refined sense of humour. Maybe they wanted a romantic comedy completely devoid of cheesiness. Or maybe the interesting nudity ratios (all three men were shirtless and two of them showed at least some of their rear ends, in comparison to the three women, none of whom showed anything more than bare shoulders or legs, which I thought was interesting) weren’t to their liking. No matter what it was, I don’t think this movie deserves the incredibly bad reviews it’s getting. The advertising sets up a premise, the trailer gives you a taste, and the film delivers pretty darn faithfully.

Credit Treehouse Pictures

That isn’t to say, of course, that That Awkward Moment didn’t have problems. The film spent most of its time undercutting sweet moments or romantic clichés with humour, which worked – that is, until the third act. By the third act, when the boys had realized their feelings for their respective women and decided to act on them, the film seemed to throw away most of its humour. It went right for the heart, and while it was likely intending to come off as romantic, it wound up right in cheeseball territory. And while it was interesting seeing Zac Efron play a character who was, in all intents and purposes, a jerk, the ending switched it all around and asked us to cheer for him when he got the girl. The girl I didn’t think he deserved, by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, the two female characters that we see the most of in this film – Ellie, played by Imogen Poots, and Chelsea, played by Mackenzie Davis – didn’t actually feel like real people. They felt like the fictional girl that men wish was real – one who can joke and be one of the boys, but never in a way that would detract from her femininity, and is intelligent and thoughtful, but doesn’t show it when it comes time to choose her partner. These girls are wish fulfillment instead of real characters, and that, to me, is the film’s biggest letdown.

Is That Awkward Moment a good movie? Well, it isn’t going to be winning any awards, and it would have been refreshing to see the female characters written realistically. But as a romantic comedy from a man’s perspective, it’s not so bad. I think it’s okay to enjoy a movie that is silly and not too serious, that isn’t perfect in every way. That Awkward Moment isn’t a masterpiece of comedy and it won’t be held up as one to beat, but it’s fun. It has some laughs and it knocks down some romantic comedy clichés with a good sense of humour. Had it continued to do that instead of succumbing to its own cheesiness, and had it spent more time either layering the female characters or giving us reasons to believe that these men grew to deserve them, it would’ve felt like a satisfying, good time at the movies. But in the end, you have some laughs, there are moments to which guys can probably relate, and the men are nice to look at.

Perfect? Not by a long shot. But not bad for a Saturday afternoon at the movies.

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