The new film “That Awkward Moment” pushes beyond the expectations of a romantic comedy, delivering a refreshing take on the dynamics of relationships. Inverting the female “best friends forever” formula, the film tracks the love lives of three best buds, played by Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, who make a pact to live the bachelor dream after one of them gets dumped.
Zac Efron, who was also executive producer for the first time on this film, admitted his bias against the traditional romantic comedy at a press day in Miami Beach.
“Romantic comedies … felt like the only thing I could bring something to, yet I didn’t want to, because I didn’t like the way so many of them had been made recently.”
Reading Tom Gormican’s script for “That Awkward Moment” ended Efron’s four-year search for a film worth producing.
“I recognized something in it that was authentic to guys now, to this generation, that I hadn’t seen before,” Efron said. “Tom found a really cool movie. I recognized a lot of my own life in it. I recognized a lot of values that I saw in my best friends, so I knew that if we found the right guys to play the best friends, I could help do something special.”
Though the film avoids the typical romantic comedy cliches, everything from its casting to its production fell into place like movie magic.
Gormican met Teller at a bar at the birthday party of a mutual friend who introduced them. At the bar, Gormican witnessed Teller in action, with “shots and hitting on girls.” He called Teller the next day to offer him the role.
Teller was happy to support independent filmmaking – an experience he calls truly “collaborative” – but most importantly, he believed in the script.
“I thought it was really funny, and I thought it had a lot of heart and I’ve done some comedies that didn’t have the heart in it,” Teller explained.
Gormican, who in addition to writing the script also served as the film’s first time director, had his work cut out for him.
“If you’ve seen anything about these three guys, just wrangling them is part of the challenge. They’re all fantastic actors, but they’ve got a lot of energy,” he said.
That energy is the product of the natural chemistry the actors share on and off camera – one that makes the movie appear heavily improvised. Yet, surprisingly, 99 percent of it came from the script, according to Efron, who finds that in better movies the script is followed closely.
“But there are moments that you can’t deny that good actors give you gifts and with these guys,” he said, pointing to Jordan and Teller. “You can’t help it. You just react naturally.”
Part of the lack of improvisation was due to the film’s tight time schedule. It was shot entirely in 24 days.
Though it is primarily a comedy, the film deals with contemporary issues. It challenges gender roles, moving away from chick flick stereotypes. Instead of the heroine mooning over her love interest, it is the male character eating his feelings in a tub of ice cream (albeit with whisky) and Facebook stalking to determine if she’s still single.
“One of the things that this movie tries to do is say that these gender-specific roles are not that anymore,” Gormican said. “The lines are blurry if they ever were, and while that may sound like an obvious thing, it’s underrepresented in popular culture.”
The prevailing comedy is so natural and unapologetic that the parts that are sentimental stand out nicely.
“The hope is that people see a lot of different aspects of themselves and how they deal with relationships, and each one of the characters is sort of representative of different things,” Gormican said.
With its unpredictable script, natural performances and hilarious plot, “That Awkward Moment” digs past the noise, echoing the evolving and contradicting forces of our generation and making it a must-see this winter.