Review by-Jarrett Leahy
As movie fans look back at the first half of 2014, I suspect the Zac Efron comedy that will most likely be remembered is the current hit Neighbors (a film by the way that I hope to see and review perhaps later this week). But after finally getting the chance this week to check out Efron’s all but forgotten January comedy effort, I’m a bit surprised to report that I found myself enjoying That Awkward Moment more than I ever anticipated. Co-starring up and comers Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, That Awkward Moment tells of three best friends living in New York City who vow to stay single after one of them unexpectedly discovers his wife wants a divorce. Their plan however becomes more difficult to adhere to when casual relationships each have embarked on begin to intensify.
Because of his obnoxious good looks and his initial rise to fame starring in the bubble gum High School Musical franchise, some have been slow to give Efron credit for possessing actual talent as an actor. Personally, he first won me over with his charming portrayal of a wide-eyed high-school student eager to make it as a stage actor in Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles. In That Awkward Moment, Efron teams up with the equally gifted Miles Teller playing book cover designers. Efron and Teller are a devilishly gifted comedic duo whose back and forth chemistry reminded me of a young Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. The scene they’ll probably most be remembered for is a…horizontal phone conversation that I won’t spoil; you’ll have to experience it for yourself. I hope they’ll get the chance to team up together again.
If there had to be a weak link in this trio, that dubious distinction would unfortunately have to be bestowed upon Michael B. Jordan. Jordan set the indie world on fire last year with his surprisingly accomplished portrait of the late Oscar Grant in the moving biopic drama, Fruitvale Station. While I was glad to see Jordan back on screen, perhaps comedy isn’t quite his genre of expertise. Whether it be the reserved personality of the character he was cast as or the fact he just doesn’t have the same comedic wit and timing that his co-stars are so glaringly blessed with, there were times when it felt as if Jordan was simply standing there as Efron and Teller were doing comedic laps around him. Saying that, Jordan’s Mikey does bring the emotional core and voice of reason to the trio.
Imogen Poots offers yet another provocatively alluring performance. Who is Imogen Poots? She is an extremely talented twenty-something British actress who has been making the rounds as the sultry supporting type in a handful of independent films and romantic comedies, most notably in Solitary Man with Michael Douglas and A Late Quartet starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Here, playing Zac Efron’s love interest, Ellie, she more than holds her own when sharing scenes with the boys, and there is instant electrifying attraction shared between her and Efron right from the first moment he catches a glimpse of her at the bar. With her obvious talents, I foresee it won’t be long before we’ll be watching Imogen in roles that would normally be given to the likes of Emma Stone or Jennifer Lawrence.
During it’s initial release, That Awkward Moment got all but crapped on by many of the leading critics. Now seeing it twice within the last three days I just don’t understand all the hostility. Admittedly it has comedic moments that some may find a bit rude and crude and not all the film’s storylines work perfectly. But more than anything there is a genuine sincerity and affection shared between this cast of characters that shines throughout. Efron and Teller’s charmingly droll and spontaneous comedic chemistry was a boisterous treat, and Poots and Efron truly sizzle on screen together. You can call me crazy, but I found That Awkward Moment to be a raunchy rom-com with surprising soul.-JL