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Are We Officially Dating? review: Playing the field with Zac Efron the lad


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Perennial commitment-phobe Jason and his co-worker Daniel are determined to help their devastated friend Mikey after he discovers his wife has been cheating on him.


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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 votes)

Can the romantic comedy be adapted for dudes? That is the question, to quote Shakespeare. His name is apt because this story of three New York buddies who vow to stay single is inspired partly by the plot of Love's Labour's Lost. The other inspiration is clearly the way Sex and the City pushed the boundaries of what women could talk about on American television.

Writer-director Tom Gormican, making his debut, has an ear for witty dialogue, delivered fast. Indeed, some of it whooshes past like a New York taxi at midnight. Some is even credible about the way men talk to each other, although it lacks the surprise and shock that made Sex and the City so fresh.

Imogen Poots as Ellie in Are We Officially Dating?.

Everybody knows that men, especially close friends, often talk to each other in coarse ways. Reflecting that does not automatically bestow the frisson of novelty Carrie Bradshaw and her friends had on their arrival in 1998. When a man offers a smutty line, it's just a smutty line, even if uttered by a well-made young man such as Zac Efron. Nor is there great novelty about men exercising sexual freedom. Movies have done that in New York settings for quite a while - On the Town was released 64 years ago.

Efron plays Jason, a graphic designer who works at a funky publishing house. He's smart, funny, creative - a real catch. His pal Daniel (Miles Teller) works beside him, the equivalent of the plain girl beside the beauty. Daniel has the snappier lines and Jason has the longer ''roster'', which is their term for the list of girls with whom they are having sex but not relationships. Jason's narration explains the difference: if he has sex once a week for six weeks with the same girl, that's a hook-up, not a relationship. On these rocks, many of his hook-ups have foundered, as many of the young women move on to someone who does know the meaning of ''officially dating''.

Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Zac EfronTheir pal Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), a doctor, announces his marriage is over - his wife is having an affair with her lawyer. Mikey arrives at Jason's loft with ice-cream, wanting to freeze his sorrows. ''Who are you, Bridget Jones?'' Jason asks. This is an opportunity, Daniel says. Let's all stay single and play the field. As in Shakespeare's play, the script puts a couple of gorgeous and adorable young women in their way. Jason meets aspiring writer Ellie (Imogen Poots), and Daniel realises he fancies their drinking buddy Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). You can guess the rest.

Male bonding: from left, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Zac Efron step Photo: AP

The problems are structural, starting with the lumpy title (it's called That Awkward Moment in the US). The film is amusing at times, and has an appealing cast, some sense of truth about sexual mores and a few good lines, but it feels like an idea in search of a form.

Romantic comedies aim at young women. Replacing young women in search of love with young men trying to avoid it sounds as if it might work, until you try it, Shakespeare or not. That line about Bridget Jones gives the problem in a nutshell: changing the gender does not change the form, and the form is built on wish-fulfilment for girls. With few exceptions, the girl gets the boy, the apartment and the job she wants, often in New York.

These boys already have the jobs and apartments, and they don't realise they want a steady girl. Giving them one might satisfy the young women who have gone to see a rom-com, but it offers little to the male audience, unless they have gone for a lesson on what women want. For that, they might more profitably consult Carrie Bradshaw.

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