When the selections for this year’s TIFF Canada’s Top Ten were announced, it was a bit of a shock to see Sean Garrity’s sex farce My Awkward Sexual Adventure among the more elite, highbrow titles. That’s not to somehow backhandedly say that it’s a bad film. It’s actually a disarmingly sweet, sometimes sufficiently creepy, and quite often hilarious look at one man’s search for experience in the bedroom.
The spark is gone in the relationship between Jordan (Jonas Chernick) and Rachel (Sarah Manninen). He never thrills her sexually anymore, and he’s given the ultimatum to shape up or ship out in the bedroom. With the help of his buddy Dandak (Vik Sahay) and a stripper (Emily Hampshire) who is willing to help him get his swagger back in exchange for his skills as an accountant, he embarks on an episodic quest to save his relationship.
Dividing the film up into chapters focusing on specific sexual lessons is probably the only huge problem with the film, making it feels at times a bit like a failed late night sitcom. The sexual politics and visual gags are certainly boundary pushing by Canadian standards, but about on par with those one would find in a Judd Apatow produced comedy. The script from Chernick and the direction from his most frequent collaborator Garrity is a bit rigid at times thanks to the structure they have to work with, but the actors and some well placed zingers and set pieces go a long way in keeping a film about a dull and somewhat unlikable main character going along at a great pace.
Chernick’s Jordan is a massive dope that probably wouldn’t exist outside of one of these comedies, but that’s kind of the point. It’s a slow building performance that does exactly what the material is telling him to do. Sahay brings the same kind of energy and mania that he usually brings to his supporting roles of this calibre. The big standout here, however, is Hampshire, playing a character so strong and warm that one wishes the movie was almost about her instead. She doesn’t “steal scenes” she anchors the film when it needs the most help and is teetering on the edge of pointless frivolity.
Canada used to be the king when it came to producing the kind of broad comedy that My Awkward Sexual Adventure is trying to be. While it isn’t up to the standards of what came before, it’s interesting to note how the country just kind of stopped making this kind of film almost overnight. It’s a step in the right direction that this light and enjoyable romp has been getting the recognition it’s mostly earned recently. We were in danger of becoming way too serious with our cinema, and that’s what makes Garrity’s film truly special.