Comedy Covers Sex From A – Z… By Way of S & M
By Randall King
Winnipeg Free Press; April 18, 2013
Slap and tickle: (Mainly British old-fashioned, humorous) Sexual activity that is not serious.
-- Cambridge Idioms Dictionary
Cinematically speaking, the Winnipeg-shot comedy My Awkward Sexual Adventure qualifies as a bit of slap and tickle.
It's a slap in the face to propriety, even compared to most of the raunchy sex comedies out there in the movie marketplace. Be advised: A movie about one man's mission to master sexual technique is bound to be uncomfortably... specific.
Even so, director Sean Garrity and screenwriter Jonas Chernick have concocted an authentically funny, laugh-out-loud comedy, tickling the psyche in its most sensitive spots.
Chernick himself plays Jordan Abrams, an accountant in his 30s who has been coasting for years with his live-in girlfriend Rachel (Sarah Manninen). In the film's first scene, we see Jordan's skills as a lover are literally a snooze. Instead of studly acumen, Jordan offers a puppy dog-like sense of devotion.
It's no surprise when, the morning after their narcoleptic nookie, Rachel rejects Jordan's marriage proposal, along with his offer of a romantic Niagara Falls getaway.
The sad-sack stud gets as far as Toronto, where he imposes on his lothario pal Dandak (Vik Sahay) to act as his erotic coach, a Yoda to his Luke Sleepinducer.
Alas, Dandak is distracted from that mission when a bit of traditional matchmaking provides a mating jackpot. (Melissa Marie Elias of the late lamented series Falcon Beach is appropriately cast as an irresistible force.)
The distraught Jordan botches his chances at a party populated by potential hook-ups and staggers into the Toronto night, ending up at a strip joint.
There, he meets Julia (Emily Hampshire), a good-hearted exotic dancer who ultimately agrees to a quid pro quo. If Jordan will help clean up her disastrous personal finances, she will teach him everything he needs to know about sex (but was too timid to ask).
The study plan includes a lesson in self-control at a massage parlour (where Jordan pictures his mom to fight off premature climax). He also engages in some sexual role-playing, including cross-dressing and sado-masochism, in a drastic attempt to examine his own sexual issues.
Chernick, who portrayed a similar romantic neurosis in his 2001 collaboration with Garrity, Inertia, raises the stakes here with an even more pathetic comic shlub. He gets especially fine support from Hampshire, who handles the film's more outlandish demands with admirable comic pluck and warmth.
While the film's raunch has its hilarious rewards, Garrity and Chernick do not enter the theme of sexual exploration lightly. The exploits in most sex comedies share a similarity with a teen hero attempting to lose his virginity: they can't wait to get to the payoff.
There is a redeeming maturity here in the film's suggestion that the give-and-take of adult sexuality is not the only quid pro quo of a real, working relationship.
You're not going to take that away from a Hangover movie.