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As most men will be glued to their big screens for Super Bowl weekend, That Awkward Moment hopes to pull women to theaters for the R-rated indie comedy’s opening weekend. With star Zac Efron also serving as producer and co-starring Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, the film is poised to open in the $10 million to $12 million range, a solid start considering the movie’s $8 million budget.
The title of writer-director Tom Gormican’s debut feature — which follows a trio of Manhattan buddies who vow to stay single — refers to the point in a “casual” relationship when female expectations (time to step it up a notch on the commitment meter) intrude on boyish expectations (let the good times roll), while also highlighting the tone of the life stage of the twenty-something-year-old characters.
Read a sampling of what top critics are saying below.
The Hollywood Reporter’s film critic Sheri Linden calls the premise “flimsy,” and notes that Gormican “leans too heavily on dick jokes, and the bathroom routine that’s an unfortunate defining element of Teller’s character instantly grows tired,” but adds that the actors’ performances suggest layers that fill in the gaps of the screenplay. “Jordan’s Mikey fares best, sympathy-wise — he’s the most sensible of the three, and the most openly vulnerable — while Teller and Efron offer more fleeting glimpses of their characters’ sensitive sides. As he did in At Any Price, Efron uses callowness to good effect, giving his performance a conflicted edge. Jason’s a good guy who can be more than a bit of a jerk, and there are no excuses when he badly fumbles in another character’s hour of need.”
On the other hand, The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday was generally frustrated that “everyone in it is so much better than the material,” she wrote of the three promising actors, cast in a film “trying to fuse the raunch and ribaldry of Judd Apatow with the aspirational feel-goodism of the movies Matthew McConaughey no longer makes.” Of the trio, she adds, “With their chirpy, pseudo-hip banter and super-designed faux-downscale apartments, the men of That Awkward Moment rarely convince viewers that they’re more than obnoxious, entitled brats, running amok in the big city with way too much disposable time, income and healthy liver enzymes at their disposal.”
The New York Times’ Stephen Holden concisely summarizes the film as “a vile, witless sex comedy set in contemporary Manhattan” (while also adding that the premise is “flimsy”), and particularly points out Efron’s “blank, weightless performance indicates that he hasn’t graduated beyond the fluff of High School Musical. Shredded abs and bushy eyelashes are no substitute for comic timing, of which Mr. Efron exhibits none.” He also adds that Teller’s Daniel, who “resembles Elvis Presley’s doughy grandson, seems all of 15. The notion that his secret girlfriend, Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), would put up with this oleaginous braggart for five minutes is beyond comprehension.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw disagrees on the topic of Teller’s performance, at least. “There are a few nice moments, mainly connected with wisecracking Daniel; for me, Teller — who is the same in the outtakes as in the actual film — is the only guy in the cast with a plausible knack for comedy. The other two mostly look decorative. In the main, it’s the usual story — much more rom than com.”
Nevertheless, San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle commends the film’s big-picture motive. “It’s an attempt to tell a modern story about how love is done in 2014, and though it ultimately leans too much on genre cliche, it reveals some of the tensions that today’s young adults experience in their romantic lives — the impersonality of hook-up culture in collision with the human desire and need for intimacy.”
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