There’s probably a logical reason first-time screenwriter Tom Gormican’s script for Are We Officially Dating? languished in the unproduced screenplays bin for the better part of the last four years. Perhaps it had something to do with waiting on a replacement for that cringe-inducing title; or more likely, it’s that no one with the money to bring the script to life thought it was any good.
Well, there's a new title, but calling the movie That Awkward Moment does nothing to make it a good one.
In fact, we have our first bona-fide stinker of the new year in what Gormican intended to be an examination of the less often explored facets of romantic comedies -- the ones told from the guys’ point of view. While that’s not necessarily a novel concept (Judd Apatow does it better), neither is it a particularly ambitious one. The real problem stems from the movie being so poorly executed with ridiculously staged situations that don’t feel real, are never funny, and certainly aren’t romantic.
Furthermore, Gormican -- who also directs -- never quite gets a firm grasp on the more subtle aspects of situational humor, and instead borrows the most ridiculously clichéd elements from the chick-flick genre, then shoehorns them into the frames of a vulgar, bratty bro-flick with no regard for continuity, reality, or making any sense.
The plot concerns Jason (Zac Effron) and Daniel (Miles Teller), two fratty 20-somethings living the carefree single life in New York City, who decide to make a pact when best friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) discovers the man he caught his wife with is also her divorce lawyer. Borrowing a page from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, the three pledge an oath to swear off women and promise each other they will avoid commitment at all costs and stay single together.
Their plan comes off the rails however, when it’s discovered that Michael is continuing to fan the flames with his ex, while Jason and Daniel have fallen in love with their respective soul mates. Each soon finds himself in that most awkward of moments, when the romantic conversation turns to “so, where is this relationship going?” The most frightening question a young man can ever face.
Ironically, this is also the point at which we begin to wonder where this movie is going. Off the rails perhaps? The line between raunch humor and just plain raunch is a fine one, as is the boundary between comedy and romance. Setting up comedic situations that feel natural and make logical sense takes a deft hand. It’s simply too much of a stretch to accept a film’s grand romantic gestures when most of them take place inside a bathroom where nearly every main character ends up – at the same time – in various stages of undress. Have you ever accidentally found yourself in someone’s residential bathroom with four of five others… with your pants down? Of course not. And when was the last time you attended a “dress-up party” but mistook it for an “adult costume party” and arrived with a large rubber dildo protruding from your pants. Acts of nonsensical stupidity can never be passed off as funny… or romantic. Ever.
Then there’s the grandest of all genre violations. The notion that all 20-somethings -- no matter the job they hold -- can afford to live in classy digs in Manhattan -- SoHo nonetheless. Here Jason and Daniel are lower-rung book cover designers early in their careers yet live in lushly appointed New York City apartments, while Mikey, a doctor, lives in a run down one. Of course, sharing the expense of rent as roommates could possibly make the finances work but would wreak havoc on a plot calling for secret relationships that would break their pact. Just another example of lazy storytelling from a writer who thinks we don’t notice his strains to create a cross-gender date night movie. Sloppy.
(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for sexual content and language throughout.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.