The Monuments Men & That Awkward Moment
Actually, they could switch titles. “That Awkward Moment” is supposed to be one of those guy gross-out comedies disguised as a rom-com. The idea seems to be that young women who wish to see traditional romantic comedies have a very hard time convincing their partners/husbands/dates to go with them, so OK, fine, just throw in some “dude” humor and tell it from their perspective. The trouble is, all the bathroom jokes start wearing think after the fifth try or so. The context seems to be a kind frat-house atmosphere in whichever apartment these three guys are in at the time. They drink beer, they joke freely about their body parts and private sexual activities, including self-induced. And yes, they do tend to treat women like sex objects, even going so far as to make some solemn pact with each other that they will only snare them to toss them out, like a “catch and release” fishing expedition or something, because, well, their real commitment is only to each other’s friendship. (No, they’re not gay, either, but if they were that might have improved their loutish behavior.)
The real unexpected part is that Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan are such winsome actors that they don’t need to be so over-the-top crass and crude in order to maintain our attention. The significant women in their lives deserve to be treated better, and eventually the men realize that on their own, but not before a series of “misunderstandings” that threaten to de-rail “true love.” By the way, the significance of the title is supposed to be the point in the relationship when the female says, “So, where is this going?......” which the randy boys translate as code word for starting to get serious, time to go. But the irony, of course, is that they actually become better versions of themselves when they learn to hang in there past that point. Yes, there’s some guilty guffaws, but mostly you hope that the quality actors here find better material. Otherwise the film stands as monuments to these men’s boorishness.
George Clooney’s movie actually called “The Monuments Men” is one of those films you really wanted to like, because it’s based on a true story, and we’re the good guys doing a noble deed for the rest of the world. Toward the end of World War II, it became apparent that the Nazis had hijacked many of Europe’s great art works, and hidden them, presumably to be collected and displayed at a new “Fuhrer Museum,” but when that became unlikely, simply pilfered by fleeing Party officials---or worse still, summarily destroyed. A squad of unlikely soldiers, recruited from the ranks of museum curators and art professors, took it upon themselves to locate these purloined treasures and rescue them from the nefarious Germans. But what could have been a heart-warming and dramatic story becomes curiously sanctimonious, pretentious, and plodding. Here’s this collection of fabulous veteran actors: in addition to Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, and more, and somehow they seem to be posing and posturing their way through this poorly-structured plot. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why it felt like everyone was just going through the motions. But the worst awkward moment for a moviegoer is when you’re sitting there asking yourself, “Why is this movie so awkward?” All suspension of disbelief is then lost.
These movies could have learned from each other. With a little more gravitas and earnestness, “That Awkward Moment” would have been greatly improved. And with a lighter touch and a sense of humor, so would “The Monuments Men.” As it is, well, neither roars or soars; both just sort of silently thud.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas