That Awkward Moment When I (Sorta) Defend THAT AWKWARD MOMENT

hr_That_Awkward_Moment_4That awkward moment when you really like a bad movie. There are many reasons you do: you like the actors, you like the setting, you like the fresh(ish) take on a tired genre, you like the theme which somehow resonates with you on that day in that moment. There are plenty of reasons to like a bad movie. But if you really enjoyed the film (dare I say, connected with the film), how bad can it actually be?
That awkward moment when the film feels horribly miscast. The biggest flaw of the film is the lead actors’ ages. Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan are playing characters in their vague mid-20s (certainly 2-3 years out of college); yet the last we saw of them, Teller was graduating from high school (The Spectacular Now); Jordan was a tragic 22-year-old (Fruitvale Station); and in the trailers before the film we saw Efron portraying a frat boy (Neighbors). Their youthful looks make them appear far too young to be in their mid-20s with some form of a career. But are they? (Maybe they’re just trying to break out of the mold they’ve been cast in.)
That-Awkward-Moment-Motion-Poster-Zac-EfronThat awkward moment when you realize all three leads are actually 26-years-old—more or less the accurate age to be playing these characters. Efron, whom we’ve seen mature over the years, is the most instantaneously believable in his role as Jason (a decade-younger Barney Stinson). While verbally sparring with Efron, Teller has enough buddy chemistry to make us buy him as being Jason’s best friend Daniel. But it’s overly-serious Mikey who, despite Jordan’s adult-seeming facial hair, feels like the odd man out. He’s a married guy facing divorce while sporting the youthful looks of a college student. His story is the least believable, and pushes him onto the fringes throughout the film.
That awkward moment when Mikey looks down on his best friends and their frivolous lifestyle. They enjoy going out each night, bedding different chicks, building up a “roster” of booty calls, yet dreading the moment when a girl gets too attached and says, “So.” So, where is this going? So, what are we? It’s a hum-drum dilemma, but they are in their mid-twenties; and it’s not their fault that Mikey got married when he was, what? 21? And how bad of a husband was he if he got Jessica Lucas to cheat on him? I don’t believe Lucas has ever played a character with a single mean bone in her body (maybe this was her attempt at breaking out of the mold).
That awkward moment when writer/director Tom Gormican seems to recognize that Mikey doesn’t quite fit in, and pulls the focus on the other two boys. Unfortunately, he has them bond over a trivial pact that haunts nearly every romantic comedy. The three amigos decide to celebrate Mikey’s impending divorce by not getting girlfriends. That’s something that Jason and Daniel have been consciously doing for years, but now that they they’ve clinked their coffee cups to it, it’s an official bro pact. And so the characters fall into the classic dilemmas we expect from a rom-com: they fall in love—Jason with the bewitching Imogen Poots (whose Ellie is far more endearing than her Allie in Greetings from Tim Buckley—but then again, Efron is a far more endearing romantic counterpart than Penn Badgley was) and Daniel with the guys’ good friend (and Robin-like wingman, I would like to add) Chelsea, played by Mackenzie Davis (whose helpful role involves telling a hot chick that she likes her shoes and then doing her version of “Have you met _____?”). Mikey is still dealing with his marital issues and doesn’t have time for the frivolous sexual relationships his buddies engage in.
maxresdefaultThat awkward moment when you like a film despite its flaws. The story may not be groundbreaking, yet it still feels fresh. I’ve been clamoring for a rom-com from the male point-of-view. And I’m not referring to bro-coms where it’s about two dudes bonding (although this film has that). This is a film about immature guys maturing in their romantic endeavors, not an easy task for “the selfish generation” as Jason aptly refers to us. It’s like getting the reverse point-of-view that we’ve seen from every other romantic comedy (about time, I tell ya!). Sure, it still falls into the formulaic pratfalls of its forebears; but what exactly did you expect when you sat down to watch it?
That awkward moment when you see yourself in the characters. These guys may be jerks who only want to hook up, but we all have those phases (unless you’re a Mikey and only accustomed or comfortable with the committed lifestyle). And maybe it’s because I’m currently in such a phase that I felt connected to Jason and Daniel’s dilemmas. It can (and does) seem so simple in the context of the film, but in real life, the lines are far blurrier, and it feels like Gormican is grasping at that. He makes these characters balance the fine line between smarmy and charming, and that’s where the casting comes in handy. For Efron and Teller are just the kind of buddies that you want to see succeed but understand when they fail. (Sure, Jordan does a good job; but I really didn’t care for him and his crumbling marriage—mostly because Gormican throws us into the divorce without establishing a resemblance of a relationship between them.)
That awkward moment when you think the movie’s theme may be a condemnation towards couples. Amidst learning to embrace being in a relationship, Jason must deal with the relationship he already has with his best friends. His (and Daniel’s) fear is that being in a relationship will make his friendship suffer. And, to some extent, that’s a correct expectation. Most people vanish into their newly founded relationships. But it is possible to balance the two (and the film hints at that). When everything inevitably goes to the toilet, Jason realizes that it’s because he devalued his relationship with his best friends. It’s the opposite effect of what happens when people do go into relationships, and it’s an interesting perspective to present (that is sadly buried in a mediocre film).
That Awkward Moment is not a good film (it was released in January). But That Awkward Moment was a very enjoyable film to watch. It addressed stories that I look for in a film, and I never once fell asleep (CONFESSION: I took 10-minute naps during American Hustle and Twelve Years a Slave). Plus, it exploits Efron’s body in a way that you hope and expect it to. If this film could be the start of something new (or at least different) in the romantic comedy genre, then it is wholly worth the price of admission (at least at matinee pricing).

Side note: As a New Yorker (can I say that yet?), I’ve been fully submersed in the Grammercy Park myth that so many of us strive for; and I fully enjoyed how the film approached it.

HOW I LIVE NOW Is a Refreshingly Gritty WWIII Pic

Saoirse Ronan seems to be trying very hard to carve her own little niche in cinema. From Hanna to The Host to Byzantium, Ronan has been building a career as a teenage action star in dystopic/post-apocalyptic worlds. And her latest film, How I Live Now, is just another entry on that resume.
saoirse-ronan-stars-in-first-trailer-and-poster-for-how-i-live-now-142540-a-1376393033-470-75Britain is on the brink of World War Three, and American Daisy (Ronan) is forced to spend the summer at her aunt’s country home. The house is full of her rambunctious cousins—Isaac (Tom Holland), Piper (Harley Bird), and Eddie (George MacKay)—but her Aunt Penn (Anna Chancellor) has business to deal with and leaves the children alone during this turbulent time. Daisy tries to keep to herself but Isaac is keen on including her, and Eddie is so devastatingly handsome and mysterious that Daisy just can’t help herself (Isaac is also quick to mention that Eddie is adopted and thus not a blood relative, so don’t get too excited about the incestuous of it all).
When WWIII does break out, the kids take to their barn in the countryside for fear of the warring militias. A man from the American consulate offers Daisy a ticket to escape the warring nation, but after having sex with Eddie she cannot bear to part from. Tribulations soon plague them as they are separated and forced into lives of servitude and fear.
For those not jaded by the excessive YA dystopia trend, How I Live Now (based on Meg Rosoff’s 2004 novel) is much darker and adult feeling—even earning a controversial R rating. While Ronan can’t avoid repeating her performances from similar pictures, she does bring some nuance to Daisy, and her passion for Eddie is endearing instead of clichéd. This is a grittier film that feels more like The Road than World War Z, and that, more than anything, helps this film stand out in a sea of similar films.

My GREAT EXPECTATIONS Are Met in this 2013 Film Adaptation

GREAT-EXPECTATIONS-PosterNot long after the BBC miniseries, the Brits have released a new film version of Great Expectations as well. I’ll never be one to balk at a new adaptation of one of my favorite novels, but I was extra excited for this film after being so disappointed by the miniseries. In that, director Mike Newell and screenwriter David Nicholls did not fail me.
This film is effortlessly cinematic in scope, giving a grand feeling to this lesson in tempered expectations. The film adheres very closely to the key events, moments, and characters in the novel while not getting too bogged down in the exact pacing of the novel. Much of the middle third of the novel that is so hard to trudge through is remixed with the final, thrilling third so that the film never quite loses your attention. And, while Pip and Estella’s relationship remains the central plot of the film, it is never blown out of proportion (like in other iterations of the story).
Jeremy Irvine is well cast as selfish pretty boy Pip, endearing enough to make you like Pip (no matter how unlikable the character really is). Miscast, however, is Irvine’s younger brother Toby as Young Pip. He’s too green to not let his overly expressive face turn every expression he makes into a comedic over-dramatization.
Speaking of overly-expressive, Helena Bonham Carter delivers a blessedly controlled performance as Miss Havisham. She never matches the nuances that Gillian Anderson brought to the character, but she does capture the sorrow and vengeance that ekes out of Miss Havisham. Holliday Grainger’s cold expressions are suited for her role as Estella, but Olly Alexander’s twinky performance as Herbert Pocket feels out of place (making this one, bizarrely, of the most homosexual adaptations of Great Expectations). Fortunately, the veteran actors in the film—Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Flemying, Sally Hawkins—deliver great performances to outweigh some of the less-than-desirable casting choices.
For now, this Great Expectations will remain my favorite adaptation.