My awkward Canadian film adventure

Director Sean Garrity and writer/star Jonas Chernick make an effort at Canadian sex comedy with My Awkard Sexual Adventure, occasioning a tormented take on English-Canadian cinema from our critic.

Jonas Chernick (r) gets into sexy hijinks in My Awkward Sexual Adventure

Winnipeg filmmaker Sean Garrity’s fourth feature makes its theme clear in its painfully obvious title. (Seriously, guys, that was the best you could come up with?) Screenwriter Jonas Chernick, who also co-wrote and starred in Garrity’s Inertia (2001) and Lucid (2005), stars as nerdy accountant Jordan, who’s so sexually inert that his girlfriend Rachel (Sarah Manninen) has developed a tendency to fall asleep during the act.

Finally fed up with his sexual incompetence, she dumps him just as he proposes. He goes on a soul-searching trip to Toronto, where he finds his horndog friend Dandak (Vik Sahay) changing his ways upon meeting an arranged-marriage soulmate (Melissa Marie Elias). Jordan finds solace when he meets Julia (Emily Hampshire), a stripper and aesthete whose personal finances are in turmoil. They make an arrangement whereby he’ll sort out her money troubles and she’ll school him in the ways of pleasing the ladies.

As many of my loyal readers know, I have a bit of a prejudice against English-Canadian movies (film publicists, please take note and don’t say you weren’t warned). There’s a certain whitewashed, diluted, artless, soulless, art-by-committee mediocrity, covered in the filthy handprints of Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Film Centre, that pervades our national cinema (or at least the officially approved version thereof) with only a few exceptions.

My Awkward Sexual Adventure has every appearance of embodying this tendency, and it heavily flirts with it, but it has a few elements that keep it from falling headfirst into the pit. Montrealer Hampshire is charming and likeable, and the film boasts a few genuinely inspired gags and comic moments. Somehow, though, these glimpses of actual quality just makes the film’s flaws more frustrating.

Probably the main impediment to the movie is Chernick’s character, who seems to be designed as a cross between Woody Allen and Paul Rudd at his most beta-male, but captures the worst aspects of each without the best of either. His whining, snivelling and grating sensitivity are clearly meant to be comic, but they’re overplayed to the point where even the most beta of males (like, for example, a Canadian online film critic) wants to smack him with a mammoth bone. Come to think of it, there’s a parallel between his character and the movie: both try so hard to please, but the technique is all wrong.

I should say that the film, by necessity, is more sexually open and explicit than most Canadian movies. Personally, the post-Sex and the City attitude towards sex makes me want to join a fundamentalist sect, but it bears mentioning that the film has lots of sex and nudity, most of it played for laughs but some of it occasionally on the mild side of titillating.

My intense frustration with English-Canadian film is matched only by a hatred of bashing indie filmmakers (it kind of feels like kicking a disabled puppy). So let me try to phrase this as a constructive criticism. Guys, this film shows that you are capable of doing much better work. Keep at it, you’re getting there. ■


My Awkward Sexual Adventure opens Friday, April 19

Leave a Reply