All the Romantic Comedy Tropes in 'That Awkward Moment'

That Awkward Moment, the comedy out Friday starring Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan, marketed itself as a romantic comedy by way of Judd Apatow complete with bro-humor and jokes about boners. It's just a straight up rom com. 

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That Awkward Moment, the comedy out Friday starring Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan, marketed itself as a raunchy romantic comedy complete with bro-humor and jokes about boners. The truth of the matter, much as the marketing push behind the movie might not want you to hear it, is that the film is just a straight up rom-com.

Despite frequent utterances of the word "dude" and extended jokes about taking a dump, That Awkward Moment is more an heir to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days than The 40-Year-Old Virgin. With three male leads, it mines every trope and cliché from the genre it possibly could. Spoilers abound.

The Cutesy Job
Frequently, rom-com heroes (most often heroines, actually) have quirky jobs, often in publishing or media. Here, Efron and Teller's characters are book-cover designers. That way their jobs can be metaphors for their romantic problems. In an early scene, Efron's Jason draws a picture of a woman's shoes during a pitch meeting and talks about "wish fulfillment." See also: Kate Hudson as a "how to" columnist in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Cameron Diaz's movie trailer maker in The Holiday, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's greeting card writer in (500) Days of Summer. Yes, we know that last one is more a comment on rom coms than an actual rom com itself, but the point stands. 

The Pact/Bet
In honor of the fact that the wife of Michael B. Jordan's character Mikey wants a divorce, the three guys make a pact to remain single. See also: So many rom coms have pacts or bets that shape their plots: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, the recently-anniversaried She's All That, and 10 Things I Hate About You. This trope is a fairly classic one, going at least all the way back to Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost.

The Meet Cute
Jason meets Imogen Poots' Ellie in a bar as she is rejecting advances from another guy. Other guy asks to buy her a drink, and she starts ranting about the rest of their lives together. Jason joins in with a quip about how she and random dude would go to the lame Hamptons. It's banter! Sweet, sweet banter, and it means they're made for each other. See also: every rom com ever. 

The One-Night Stand That Isn't

Jason and Ellie sleep together, but he mistakes her for a hipster hooker and sneaks out. The next day, she shows up at his office. See also: It's TV and not movies, but this is how Grey's Anatomy starts. In Working Girl Melanie Griffith's character meets Harrison Ford's at a party, passes out thanks to alcohol and Valium, and wakes up in his bed. They didn't sleep together, but the next day, she finds out he was the person with whom she had previously set up a meeting.

The Break-In
Jason and Ellie pilfer a key to Gramercy Park and break in. See also: Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts breaking into a garden in Notting Hill; or Kat Dennings and Michael Cera going to the recording studio after-hours in Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist.

The Embarrassing Costume 

Jason, mistaking "dress-up party" for "costume party," shows up at a birthday party Ellie is throwing for herself in a "Rock Out With Your Cock Out" costume. (He has a large dildo hanging from his pants.) Ellie's parents are there.  See also: Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods attending a party in a Playboy Bunny costume in Legally Blonde, also Renée Zellweger's Bridget Jones in basically the same costume in Bridget Jones's Diary.

The Best Friends Who Fall in Love
Chelsea (played by MacKenzie Davis) acts as the wing-woman for Teller's Daniel, until he brings pizza over to her apartment one night and they realize they are perfect for one another. See also: The mother of all friends who fall in love rom coms, When Harry Met Sally, also the friends-who-fuck duos of Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached

The Caught-In-The-Act Sex
Chelsea and Daniel try to have sex in a bathroom shower at Thanksgiving but are caught by Jordan's Mikey and Jason. See also: Not exactly the same, but in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant's character is accidentally in a room when his just-married friends escape to do it. Also Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway were caught in the act by Josh Gad in Love and Other Drugs.

The Run-and-Tell
After Daniel explains all the reasons why he likes Chelsea (he likes how she looks in the morning! Their crotches line up!), Jason encourages him to run and tell her. (He gets hit by a cab, alas.) See also: When Harry Met SallyLove ActuallyNotting Hill, and just so many more.

The Declaration of Love in Front of An Audience 

Jason interrupts a reading Ellie is holding to give a thinly veiled speech—he pretends to be "reading" from his own work—explaining how much she means to him. See also: Hugh Grant's press conference speech in Notting Hill is probably the most analogous, because he also pretends to be someone else, but this trope is so well trod.

The Meet Me At...
During his declaration of love, Jason asks Ellie to meet him, implying that they will meet in Gramercy Park, if she still wants to be with him. See also: Steve and Miranda's meeting on the Brooklyn Bridge in Sex and the City, and the mother of all meet ups, the Empire State Building plan in Sleepless in Seattle. 

The Really Nice Living Situation
Seriously, everyone in this movie has apartments that are impeccably decorated and completely unrealistic given the character's ages and financial circumstances. We're not entirely clear, but we're pretty sure no one lives in Brooklyn. See also: Every single Nancy Meyers movie ever.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.