No doubt, Tom Gormican, writer/director of the rom-com That Awkward Moment, would be pleased if viewers lumped his feature debut with the likes of, say, 500 Days of Summer, an exuberant, sweet, 20-something love story with real heart beating beneath its humor.
He certainly gets an “A” for effort.
Gornican has corralled two of the season’s brightest up-and-coming male stars — Michael B. Jordan ( Fruitvale Station, the next Fantastic Four movie) and Miles Teller ( The Spectacular Now and this year’s much-admired Sundance favorite, Whiplash) — and paired them with Zac Efron, a former teen heartthrob who has been trying to broaden his thespian horizons.
He has put them in a story that, while making a nod toward youthful raunch and bro-code bonhomie, is generally a genial look at three guys dealing with issues of commitment, fidelity and trust. On top of that, he had the good sense to hire the underrated guitarist/composer David Torn (who has played with the likes of David Bowie, John Legend, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Sting) to write the shimmering electro-pop score.
Not bad for a guy whose only previous film credit was as co-producer on the generally despised comedy Movie 43.
Still, Gormican’s reach exceeds his grasp. That Awkward Moment is pleasant enough, and it has some inspired moments, but they don’t add up to anything that pushes the boundaries of the genre.
Efron and Teller are Jason and Daniel, best pals and jokey co-workers at a graphic design firm specializing in book jackets. The third person in their guy trinity is Mikey (Jordan), a level-headed ER doctor.
When Mikey’s wife, Vera (Jessica Lucas), tells him she’s having an affair and wants a divorce, these three decide they’ve had enough of relationships and aren’t going to commit to one woman. But there’s a catch: Jason is getting serious with a girl he meets in a bar, Ellie (Imogen Poots), while Daniel is starting to fall for Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), a good friend and wingwoman who’s turning into something more. As for Mikey, things may not be over with his wife after all.
Yes, some hilarity ensues with their amorous adventures, whether it’s dealing with the after-effects of Viagra or showing up at a “dress-up” party wearing the wrong thing.
The cast is generally strong. Teller and Davis possess a confidence and screen presence that make you want to see what they’ll do next, while it’s good to see Jordan, a mainstay in dramas, get to smile occasionally. Efron is better here as the cocky but cool pretty boy than in the JFK-themed Parkland, where he seemed out of his depth.
What doesn’t work as well is when Gormican tries to go for touching and transcendent, and ends up with trite. These may be the most awkward moments of all.
Cary Darling, firstname.lastname@example.org