I tried hard to ignore the fact that I wasn’t seeing as much honesty from That Awkward Moment‘s girls as I was from its boys. I wasn’t as interested as you might imagine in taking the film to task for gender balance issues. I think the Bechdel Test worked brilliantly as a comic, but it’s a wholly unreliable indicator of a problem that has existed for as long as film has been around, and its approach won’t so much solve that problem as create others. I certainly didn’t think I should dismiss the film just because the women in it never interact with one another. The film is, and has every right to be, from the boys’ point of view.
But That Awkward Moment really wants you to believe it’s getting women right. It gives them a little well-reasoned bite and lets its three male leads discombobulate around them. It wants to be a frat-boy comedy and a witty romancer all at the same time, determined as it is for multi-quadrant appeal. It might be enough to fool some, but there’s no truth here at all.
It’s a shame, because Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller do great jobs of making their fratty friendship into something likeable and occasionally sweet, despite the juvenile characters they’re given. They’re a distillation of much prior thinking about bromance – a clearly understood idea repeated unceremoniously. This refinement can’t work so well with the women, despite engaging turns from Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis, since there’s no template to copy.
In the end, we get too much bellyaching between the boys, who eventually emerge from WAG trouble to a pact that they won’t date. Inevitably, they all engage in dalliances behind each others’ backs, and the though the film sends a decent enough message about prioritising honesty in relationships, their illicit behaviour offers little drama in the reveal. How mad can you ever be at your best friends for dating someone unconnected to you behind your back?
This seems like the wrong thing to prioritise when the film clearly wants to remind us that men and women are from different planets. It’s one thing to imply the boys’ occasionally bizarre attitudes about women are idiotic, but when that’s all they have to offer you have to wonder how much they deserve their pay-offs. Imogen Poots comes closest to a wholly-rounded woman – which is to say, not very close at all. This has nothing to do with her endearing performance but rather the material she’s given. One promising plot involves Jordan’s character’s marital trouble, but it unravels in the most disappointing of ways. Mackenzie Davis sparks as a friend with benefits, but all we really learn about her is that she’ll have sex with Teller’s character.
It’d be great to dismiss all of this as overthinking, and enjoy the handful of genuine belly-laughs the film delivers in its funniest moments. It’s a handful more than most comedies of its ilk dare to muster. But it propagates attitudes that need changing; not because we live in politically correct times, but because they massively underserve the audience the film wants to address.