Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan slum with Zac Efron in "That Awkward Moment." Credit: Focus Features
'That Awkward Moment' Director: Tom Gormican Stars: Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan Rating: R 2 (out of 5) Globes
Men are reluctant to watch “Sex and the City” (or at least admit that they do). That explains why the show has so few dude versions. Instead, we get a glut of jokey “bromances” concerning platonic courtships between boys we’re repeatedly, painstakingly assured are 100% straight. “That Awkward Moment” runs against this trend. The guys — Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller — are Manhattan professionals who club, hook up with the opposite sex and convene for morning after chats at diners. They’re just like Carrie and gang, only it’s telling that when they talk R-rated dirty, they just sound like fratboys.
If it’s “Sex and the City” for bros, it’s at least the show, not the drippy, endless, longer-than-“Goodfellas” movies. The hook is that Jordan’s Mikey has been handed divorce papers, forcing buds Jason (Efron) and Daniel (Teller) to agree to a “Seinfeld”-ian pact: Out of a strained sense of solidarity, all of them will remain single. Of course, this is a transparent, desperate ploy to extend the good old young and single days, shirking the responsibilities of old age. (All the actors, by the way, are only 26.)
The plot is quickly forgotten anyway, as each instantly finds women on whom to mack. Commitment-phobe Jason gets a young writer (Imogen Poots, who’s almost as talented as her name is great). Daniel finds himself drawn to Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), a female-friend-or-is-it-more? And Mikey simply finds himself having hot sex with his soon-to-be-ex (Jessica Lucas).
All the actors are game, even Efron, who tends to be sleepy (or, till recently, medicated) but is passable as a quippy lothario. But he and Teller are basically the same smirking character. (Teller, it seems, excels only when showing the dark side of douchery, as in “The Spectacular Now.” When he’s just a douche, he’s just a douche.) Meanwhile Jordan, a should-be Oscar nominee this year in a fit of paycheck slumming, is given little to do. The women are better, particularly the lightning fast Davis, who nails and steals every scene.
Then again, they're doing what they can with roles that betray them. The problem with doing this from a male — especially a young male — perspective is that with male immaturity comes emotional remoteness. The filmmakers have even less of an idea than its characters of what to do when the third act brings forth an actual, leftfield death, a development that lays waste to a light tone that minutes before made room for dildo gags. Speaking of which, not even "Sex and the City" was this obsessed with the male member. There are even strangely premature Viagra gags, including a “planking” set piece that was thankfully omitted from “Last Vegas.”
One some level, at least it’s honest about what it is. Rather than pretend it’s offering an antidote to Hollywood cliches, its characters embrace them. “Do it like the movies,” Daniel cheers before the climax. And so we get a stammering, humiliating public declaration of love right out of a Richard Curtis movie. But despite ripping off a classically female genre, and featuring some fine female work, "That Awkward Moment" has no real interest in women except as underwritten tokens of male entitlement.