That Awkward Moment

awkwardmoment
Starring Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots and Michael B. Jordan
Directed by Tom Gormican
In UK Cinemas January 29th, 2014

by Alice Sanders

The rom-com is much derided, arguably prone to using the same old clichés and tired tropes more than any other genre. But I believe that at its best the rom-com can be truly great. I cite the example of When Harry Met Sally, as if you would ever need any more proof. So it is with much hope in my heart that I go to every new rom-com, even ones entitled That Awkward Moment.

The two leads, Zac Efron and Imogen Poots, are charismatic and likable actors, but this film suffers from a case of serious sexism. The premise of the film is that three best friends – all men – decide that they will not get into relationships to support a friend whose marriage has just broken down. (Even though on the night of his break-up they take him out to get him laid?!). It assumes that all men do not want to commit, whilst all women are desperate to be in a relationship, inseminated, and washing at least two people’s dishes ASAP, no exceptions. I’m so tired of this.

That awkward moment is the one in which a woman asks “so, where is this going…?”. Throughout the first half of the film there’s a hilarious repeating gag about how the main male character mistakenly thinks the main female character is a prostitute for a bit because she has some condoms and knee high boots. Leaving aside how ridiculous this is as a plot line, I was uncomfortable with the joke. “You thought that poor girl was a hooker?”, one of the other male characters says. The implication being that he thought she was a horrible, disgusting, dirty hooker, not worthy of her humanity. Hookers are often vulnerable women, often exploited by men (pimps), or they are grown women who have made a choice about doing sex work and are totally in control and fine with it. I don’t want to laugh at a joke that makes prostitutes the victim. I don’t think prostitutes are disgusting and dirty. And you know what, it’s not just that it’s a sexist joke, it’s that it just isn’t funny. The bit that really rankled with me, though, comes later.

The three bros are hanging out together, drinking a beer, playing video games, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool. The main female character rings her love interest, Zac Efron, and he says she can come over. Now, the two other guys, who are characters in their mid to late twenties start whinging that they don’t want a girl to ruin their fun. It’s like they’ve never had friends who are girls. One of these men is a doctor, for crying out loud. The girl arrives, and she’s got a bottle of whiskey. Zac Efron’s friends are flabbergasted. A girl who drinks WHISKEY?! Their tiny minds are exploding. They obviously thought girls only drank strawberry juice, diet coke, pulverised marshmallows, and angels’ tears. But here is a girl drinking WHISKEY, just like men do! And you’ll never guess what she does next! She sits down on the sofa and plays a video game! The boys are yet again astounded as presumably they thought that activities that ladies did for fun are limited to plaiting each other’s hair, pillow fighting, stroking kittens, gossiping, and ripping out their pubic hairs with hot wax. But here’s a girl playing a video game, just like a man!

If you can get past the deep, structural sexism in this film, you might be able to enjoy some of the funnier moments. As for me, I was blind with fury for the next hour or so, and entirely missed the rest.

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