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Movie Reviews

Plugged In Rating
Content Caution
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Romance
Cast
Zac Efron as Jason; Miles Teller as Daniel; Michael B. Jordan as Mikey; Imogen Poots as Ellie; Mackenzie Davis as Chelsea; Jessica Lucas as Vera; Addison Timlin as Alana
Director
Tom Gormican
Distributor
Focus Features
In Theaters
January 31, 2014
Reviewer
Adam R. Holz
That Awkward Moment

That Awkward Moment

"Every relationship arrives at a critical moment," commitment-phobic twentysomething playboy Jason relates via voiceover in the opening minutes of That Awkward Moment, "a critical juncture between moving forward and moving on."

Despite the film's emotionally tormented title, however, it turns out that the moment in question generally isn't all that awkward for Jason. For that matter, it's difficult even to categorize his copious couplings as actual relationships. That's because by the time the many women Jason's having no-strings-attached sex with start to wonder if an honest-to-goodness relationship might be in the offing, he's already off, moving on to his next nubile conquest.

Sex is his thing. Not romance. Certainly not commitment.

The same is doubly true of Daniel, Jason's best friend and "wingman" in their never-ending carnal misadventures. And strangely, the person who often helps him identify his next target, er, partner, is a longtime "just friends" gal pal named Chelsea.

Then there's Mikey. Unlike his old college buddies, Mikey was lucky enough to find the love of his life early—or so he thought. But one day Mikey comes home to find his beloved wife signing papers in the presence of a handsome divorce lawyer … whom, he soon learns, she's also been sleeping with.

"Faithful" friends that they are, Jason, Daniel and Chelsea are determined to help Mikey make a fresh start. Read: hook up with the first pretty girl they can help him land.

But along the way, something unexpected happens. Actually, several unexpected somethings: Jason falls for a beautiful, vivacious young writer named Ellie. Daniel realizes he's falling for Chelsea. And Mikey rejects his friends' attempts to procure casual sex for him, secretly redoubling his efforts to win back his errant wife's affections.

There's just one problem: The longtime friends have also made a solemn pact to avoid serious relationships at all costs so they can give themselves fully to their coitus-centric conception of the carnal good life. And no one wants to admit that maybe, just maybe, honest commitment in a real relationship might be preferable to the sexed-up way of life they've so far enthusiastically embraced.

Positive Elements

Jason is the epitome of a ladies' man. At one point he sarcastically tells Ellie, "How dare you assume I have any emotional capacity whatsoever." Surprisingly, though, there is a bit of that lurking within, and Ellie brings it out. After a series of big mistakes—including failing to show up at Ellie's father's funeral—Jason comes to his senses and realizes that he really does want a relationship with Ellie, not just casual sex with an unending string of pretty partners.

For her part, Ellie helps Jason see that a real relationship actually means something … and requires something. "You weren't there for me on a day when I really, really needed you," she tells him before one of their two breakups. "And being there when someone needs you is all relationships are, Jason."

Daniel is similarly terrified of commitment, but he's eventually able to admit to Chelsea (after having sex, of course) that she's the one he really wants. As for Mikey, he admirably tries to regain his wife's love. (It's strictly by sexual means, of course, but at least he's trying.)

Spiritual Content

Sex is said to provide "spiritual and physical rejuvenation."

Sexual Content


Each couple—Jason and Ellie, Daniel and Chelsea, Mikey and Vera—has sex multiple times onscreen. These scenes include explicit motions as they stop just shy of nudity. Camera angles, clothes and bedcovers strategically keep private body parts at least partially obscured. But nothing else is left the imagination.

Jason is also shown in several similarly sleazy sex scenes with two other women. One encounter is "interrupted" by a roommate walking in on them and carrying on a lengthy conversation with them as the copulating couple waits for him to leave so they can finish. Elsewhere, Jason and Mikey walk into a bathroom where Daniel and Chelsea are having (clothed) sex in a shower.

Visual gags include a painfully long scene in which Jason walks around with a dildo attached to the outside of his pants. Jason and Daniel joke about not being homosexuals at the sex shop where the dildo is purchased (and where we see many other sex toys). All three guys take Viagra before dates; that leads to a bathroom scene in which they have difficulty relieving themselves because of the drug's effects. (We see rear nudity.)

Verbally, conversations rarely go long without weaving in crude sexual references. Daniel repeatedly recalls oral sex experiences. He also makes several disgusting jokes about having sex with Chelsea's grandmother. Other conversations include the guys debating whether they should get a "hooker" for Mikey, whether one of Jason's conquests might be a prostitute, losing your virginity, masturbation, condoms, pornography and infidelity. There are jokes about applying spray tan to genitals, the size of penises and how a woman's brain responds when she sees a man naked.

Violent Content

Mikey takes offense at something Daniel says about his unfaithful wife and punches him. Elsewhere, absentminded Daniel gets clocked by a car. (After he bounces off the hood and windshield, we see him laughing about it in the hospital.)

Crude or Profane Language

About 75 f-words. More than 35 s-words. We hear at least a dozen references to different crude slang terms for the male and female anatomy ("d‑‑k," "c‑‑k" "p‑‑‑y"). "A‑‑hole" is uttered 10 times. Other vulgarities include "p‑‑‑," "d‑‑mit," "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑tard." We see an obscene hand gesture once; the camera repeatedly seeks out a drawing of the same on Jason's desk. God's name is abused at least a dozen times; Jesus' name is misused seven or eight.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Alcohol is part and parcel with the guys' (and girls') way of life. They drink in many scenes, whether it's at Jason's place or at the bar they regularly frequent. They often combine beer and shots of whiskey. We also watch Mikey buy a 40 oz bottle of malt liquor when he's at a particularly low point. People drink wine and cocktails. Chardonnay is mentioned. Jason jokes with Ellie about taking acid before he dies.

Other Negative Elements

Vera condemns marriage as boring, unspontaneous and constricting. The pals' pact not to get into any serious relationships prompts them to minimize or lie about the fact that they're each falling for someone. In Mikey's case, he thinks he and his estranged wife are on the path to reconciliation when he discovers that she's still sleeping with another man and has no real interest in trying to save their failing marriage.

Jason and Ellie pose as a rich young couple to look at an expensive property for sale in Manhattan's upscale Gramercy neighborhood. While there, they steal a key to the area's gated, private park.

Multiple gross-out conversations revolve around what happens when Daniel uses the bathroom in Jason's apartment. We hear verbal references to passing gas.

Conclusion

A really charitable reviewer who liked, say, There's Something About Mary, could argue that this salacious comedy ultimately affirms commitment and rejects casual, promiscuous sex as a viable path to personal fulfillment. After all, at one point Jason even stops a would-be partner from disrobing because he realizes that another tryst isn't really what he wants or needs. It's the committed relationship with Ellie that he really craves.

Then again, movies like this one aren't really banking on any reviewers' charity—they're banking on gags and jokes, images and innuendo that stretch the boundaries of good taste to build buzz and garner guilty giggles. So … maybe star Zac Efron's assessment is all we really need here: "This movie's all about, 'Bring it on. How can it get more awkward?'"

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