Movies don't often mix fantasy and reality - they're either flights of fancy, or gritty, dark and grave. There isn't a lot of room for overlap. Beasts Of The Southern Wild turns that notion entirely on its head. It's a movie brimming with imagination and magic, but also one that dares to take a close, hard look at loss, pain, death and change. What's even more amazing is that this ambitious, powerful enterprise rides almost entirely on the very capable shoulders of a five-year-old girl.
Any action star worth his salt has a trademark: Van Demme does the splits, Schwarzenegger cracks corny one-liners, Jackie Chan integrates prop comedy into his fighting and Tony Jaa has his elephants. If he asks â€œWhere are my elephants?!, it is far wiser to point in the direction of the nearest pachyderm and scram than to laugh in his face. This, his first film since becoming a Buddhist monk for a period, is a sequel to 2005`s Tom-Yum-Goong and a second serving of the spicy stuff that`s definitely an acquired taste.
In a bid to stay fresh and funny, romantic comedies have gone down an interesting route of late. Gone are the doe-eyed girls tripping their way into awkward trysts that somehow turn into true love. Instead, rom-coms these days are upping the raunchy factor and spinning a more dude-friendly take on the romantic relationship - presumably to trick more guys into turning up at the cinema. The largely unfunny That Awkward Moment is the latest film trundling off that particular production line, and it's all the more a waste because its cast includes some of the most exciting young actors working today.
When Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) discovers that his wife Vera (Jessica Lucas) is having an affair, his best buddies Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) rally around. In a weird lone-wolf bonding ritual, the three guys resolve to stay single. But their studly pact of solidarity goes awry when Jason begins to fall for the sweet, kooky Ellie (Imogen Poots) and Daniel discovers that he might have a future with Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), his snappy wing-woman.
There's little doubt that writer-director Tom Gormican's debut feature film will be a testosterone-heavy, raunchy treatise on commitment issues and relationship phobia. After all, the awkward moment of the film's title occurs when - according to Jason - a swinging bachelor is stopped in his tracks when a woman has the temerity to ask him, "So, where is this going?". One can only hope that the film is a little smarter than it looks, that it subverts rather than accentuates stereotype.
Unfortunately, That Awkward Moment does no such thing. Gormican's script values bawdy gags (Viagra 'vitamins' and their attendant acrobatic requirements in the toilet) over genuine insights and emotional warmth. There are moments that are clearly meant to be romantic and comedic - Jason taking Ellie on a tour of a townhouse - but come off as neither. Instead, Jason commits petty theft and is immediately rewarded with Ellie's undying devotion.
Even when Gormican goes for depth, he winds up empty-handed. There's a genuinely emotional twist in store for Jason and Ellie, but it's handled in so ham-fisted a way that it's hard to believe they'll ever work out in the long term - as the film evidently wants us to believe. Similarly, the insidiously poisonous relationship between Mikey and Vera could have been interesting, save for the fact that Vera is written as a vile, sex-starved harpy.
The cast is better than the script deserves. Efron has an ineffable charm that's on full display when he turns up at Ellie's party - dressed up in a hilarious costume rather than in a smart-casual suit - and he keeps the farce of the film running longer than it really would on its own steam. Teller and Jordan are wasted on this material - the 'witty' dialogue they're given amounts to Mikey repeatedly calling his pals idiots - but they do lend it a little more complexity than you might expect. Poots sports a great American accent and is charming despite the generic nature of her role; Davis is a joy as spunky, snarky Chelsea.
What rankles so much about That Awkward Moment is the fact that it really could have been so much better. But, instead of taking the opportunity to defy stereotype and convention, the film sinks into a shapeless blend of easy, bawdy gags and misguided brotherly bonding - none of which are good substitutes for a tight plot and well-developed characters.
Summary: This is that totally awkward moment when a film thinks it's better than it really is.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars