Dir/scr: Tom Gormican. US. 2013. 105mins

That Awkward Moment

Former musical high schooler Zac Efron is teamed with up-and-comers Miles Teller and Michael B Jordan in That Awkward Moment, a romantic comedy with a laddishly male point of view and a hip New York setting. The casting works better than the other elements and this rather strained indie romcom is likely to rise or fall at the box office mainly on the appeal of its young stars. 

The leads deliver some mildly amusing banter, usually led by Teller’s Daniel, but also some grating dialogue mannerisms.

Wide openings this week in the US (through Focus Features) and the UK (through eOne) will benefit from the attention earned last year by Teller’s The Spectacular Now and Jordan’s Fruitvale Station. And last week’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Teller drama Whiplash should give distributors extra marketing leverage with plugged in younger audiences.

In his first released feature, writer-director Tom Gormican paints twentysomething best friends Jason (Efron), Daniel (Teller) and Mikey (Jordan) as a wisecracking trio apparently determined to avoid romantic commitment. When Mikey is cheated on by his wife, the three guys vow to stay single together, but before long Mikey is seeing his ex again, Daniel is getting intimate with a gal pal and Jason is falling in love with quirky author Ellie (the UK’s rising talent Imogen Poots, from A Late Quartet).

Though he tries to avoid romcom cliches, Gormican doesn’t find much to replace them with and the film ends up with only its three-stranded story distinguishing it from standard examples of the genre.

The leads deliver some mildly amusing banter, usually led by Teller’s Daniel, but also some grating dialogue mannerisms. There’s some fairly raunchy talk and action (enough to earn the film an R rating in the US) and a fair bit of exposure for Efron’s well toned bod.   

Efron’s performance doesn’t offer any particular departures from the string of (mostly commercially disappointing) films he’s made since his High School Musical breakthrough. Teller is funny enough but not greatly challenged by his role and Jordan is solid as the straight man of the trio. 

Production companies: Treehouse Pictures, Aversano Films, What If It Barks Films, Ninjas Runnin’ Wild Productions, Virgin Produced

US distribution: Focus Features

International sales: QED International

Producers: Justin Nappi, Andrew O’Connor, Scott Aversano, Kevin Turen,

Executive producers: Manu Gargi, John Friedberg, Peter Schlessel, Lia Buman

Cinematography: Brandon Trost

Editors: Shawn Paper, Greg Tillman

Production designer: Ethan Tobman

Music: David Torn

Website: www.thatawkwardmomentmovie.com

Main cast: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B Jordan, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas