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That Awkward Moment

January 31, 2014
That Awkward Moment

Before we begin, a bit of full disclosure: through my twenties I was never so successful at dating that I felt a desire to play games in order to have more sex with more women; even finding one who would put up with me was an achievement in and of itself. And now that we’ve got that awkward moment out of the way, we can talk about That Awkward Moment.

The opening voiceover delivered by Jason (Zac Efron) seems to indicate that the titular moment is “the ‘so'”, when a young woman he’s casually sleeping with asks something like “so, what are we doing here?” or “so, where is this going?” That’s the moment where she’s out of “the rotation” of his temporary bedmates, to be quickly replaced by another. You can expect there to be plenty more when you look like Zac Efron.

His illustrating partner, Daniel (Miles Teller) doesn’t have that look, but he’s got their friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) acting as a wingwoman. They’ve got this whole bit worked out where she stops a young woman, compliments her shoes, and then introduces Daniel, and yes, the only thing creepier than the calculated delivery is that it works.

The third musketeer, Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), seems like he should be past all these games; he married his college girlfriend (Jessica Lucas) before going to medical school. But now she wants a divorce, and Jason and Daniel are here to get him building up a rotation of his own. The fact that he’s clearly not ready to move on be damned.

And so the other two, who were clearly not about to settle down any time soon anyway, promise him that they’ll stay single too, and they can all be buddies again like in college. Of course, this triggers relationship behavior in all three, just so they’ll have some kind of secrets to hide from each other. Daniel and Chelsea turn out to be — shocker — into each other; Jason meets the wonderful Ellie (Imogen Poots); even Mikey ends up secretly canoodling with Vera, which may be the stupidest of the three plotlines.

The awkward moment in question isn’t actually the “so”; it’s the moment when each of these guys finds that, despite their intentions, they’re drawn to a relationship. To be blunt about it, it’s when a guy catches himself doing that most horrible thing for any guy to do: acting like a girl.

The marketing reinforces this idea that, yes, guys think and care about relationships, but at the same time this is somehow transgressive to admit. It’s the sort of story that on the surface appears to dismantle this one component of heteronormativity, while really building it all the higher by turning the “wrong” or “unmasculine” behavior into a taboo. “It’s normal to think about and even want relationships, guys,” the movie says, “but if you’re a real man you’ll never admit to it, except maybe to the woman who will become your prize for being oh-so-sensitive.”

Released just before Valentine’s Day, and built around three of the most bankable young actors working today, That Awkward Moment is well-positioned as a date movie for college-aged women seeking to extract relationship behaviors from boyfriends who buy into the core idea that they shouldn’t like that sort of thing. But it misuses its cast as a bunch of pretty, box-office-drawing faces, and never really gives them any real substance to work their considerable talents on.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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