Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hanging By A Moment

Year: 2014
Director: Tom Gormican
Cast: Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Have you ever heard of the term in medias res? It's Latin for "in the middle of things" and it is a rhetorical device used to draw people into a story by revealing details from a later point in time at the beginning, then telling most of the story in flashback. This idea has been used far and wide in movies like The Hangover, which opens with a desperate trio wondering how they will make it to the wedding before going back to the beginning to explain "how we got here." There's a whole thing about it on TV Tropes. Check it out.

As you may have gathered, That Awkward Moment begins with an in medias res moment. Jason (Zac Efron) is sitting on a park bench in the freezing cold as his voiceover narration asks "I bet you're wondering how I got here." 

No, Zac Efron. We are not wondering why you're sitting on a freaking bench. It's a park bench, not the Iron Throne. The rest of the movie is no less stupid than this opening scene, although it is somewhat less exciting to mock, alternating from being bland and tasteless to relying on the worst kind of odious gender essentialism.

And a heaping helping of white nonsense.

Jason is one of a trio made up of him and his friends Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Miles B. Jordan), two other up and coming actors. Teller attempted to make a name for himself in the quickly forgotten YA adaptation Divergent and Michael B. Jordan recently lit up the indie scene in Fruitvale Station. It is clear that they agreed to do a movie together in order to hopefully lift each other's careers up and over the high wall of success. 

It is unclear why they chose to do this particular movie with its characters that are far too old for the actors portraying them (Mikey is a married surgeon; Daniel and Jason are successful book cover designers), a director fresh off of producing the steaming pile of rat dung that was Movie 43, and non-starter dialogue and scenarios that could only be an aborted script for a sitcom pilot.

And not a particularly good sitcom. Not the kind that pushing the envelope of storytelling like or creates a zeitgeist hit based on a solid ensemble of relatable characters. But rather the uninspired style filled with (two and a) half-baked zingers and lazy gender psychology. Did you know that the one thing every woman in the entire world wants more than anything is a pair of shoes? Zac Efron knows. And all the women in the film agree.

Sure, shoes are cool. But it makes you wonder if the screenwriters have ever met an actual woman who wasn't a 3mmx3mm jpeg at the corner of a chat bar. And the inclusion of the line "So, you're gonna go full girl with it?" spoken to an emotional man was enough to cement the movie entirely into my lack of esteem. The shock displayed when a girl expressed interest in video games sent me into a supernova of anger, from which my houseplants are only now starting to recover.

True story: Sometimes they were so aware of the direness of their dialogue, they tried to mask it with a jaunty pop tune.

The film is just as blasé and careless about every other aspect of its creation. The editor cuts abruptly away from scenes before they end, any of the human emotions that are more challenging to write (i. e. anything that isn't "horny" or "bland") are smoothed over by turning them into musical montages, taking all the contrivances out of the plot would render the movie twelve seconds long, and - perhaps most egregiously - there is a date scene in the coffee shop where the scone they are sharing lies on a plate untouched for a matter of hours.

So, the plot. I guess. Let's just get that out of the way real quick. Mikey and his wife (Jessica Lucas) are getting a divorce, so Daniel and Jason make a pact with him to stay single in solidarity with their fallen brother. They of course all immediately fall into intense, loving relationships. Jason meets a Word Vomit Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Ellie (Imogen Poots), Daniel falls in love with his sarcastic best friend (Mackenzie Davis), and Mikey gets back together with his wife after little deliberation. The pact doesn't seem to matter until the very end of the movie when it suddenly does, where it is used to create a frail snotrag of conflict.

For the first hour or so, though, we are stuck watching absurdly well-off white people date each other in New York while an absurdly well-off ethnic couple does their business in private on the other side of town. There is no sense of urgency, no plot direction to speak of, just endless minutes unspooling of Zac Efron romancing his nonsense maiden.

You rang?

The humor is like a low sodium cracker - it exists, but it doesn't make you smile. The title is irrelevant to the plot and immensely pandering. The ending is bonkers if you're a sane human being. And although the production values are nice enough and the people are pretty enough to not hate spending an hour and a half together with them, they certainly tried their hardest to make you feel otherwise.

TL;DR: That Awkward Moment is entertaining enough to make me not want to drive a knife through my eye, but is too terribly put together to be much more than that.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 955


  1. Great Game of Thrones reference!

  2. "The humor is like a low sodium cracker - it exists, but it doesn't make you smile."

    Positively the best sentence I've read all week. Excellent work.