I’ve never been a huge fan of the highly formulaic ‘romantic comedy’ (aka rom/com) film. It isn’t that I think romance is dead, either. Actually, it isn’t for the typical reason, so let me clarify precisely why: I generally can’t see most Hollywood male leads cast into these features as being legitimate romantic leads. I mean … Hugh Grant? Really? I’m supposed to believe he has romance problems? With his underwear model good looks? Sure, I get that he plays these fops with tremendous ease, but the only time I bought his regular shtick was in the underrated THE ENGLISHMAN WHO WENT UP A HILL BUT CAME DOWN A MOUNTAIN, and I liked that far more for the ensemble than I did anything Hugh brought to the picture.
No, for a rom/com to work for me, the man has to look and actually sound the bumbling male part … kind of like Jonas Chernick manages to pull off in AN AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE. Everything about the man screams ‘boring,’ and he plays the uptight accountant Jordan with such convincing ease one might wonder if Chernick himself has experienced some of the same “shortcomings” in the romance department behind-the-scenes, especially given the fact that he also wrote the screenplay.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Dumped by his longtime gal pal Rachel (played by the lovely Sarah Manninen) because he’s got no mojo in the sack, Jordan Abrams (the aforementioned Chernick) heads off to Toronto for his annual getaway hoping his buddy and male-slut friend Dandak (Vik Sahay) might teach him some moves that’ll win the lady back. Sulking in his own despair, Jordan finds his way into the life of a local stripper – Julia (Emily Hampshire) – who agrees to show him how to be a real man in exchange for his assistance in getting her financial life in order. Of course, modest hilarity ensues, as does an unanticipated true love of the highest order as Julia begins to succumb to the math nerd she’s invited into her affairs.
There’s much of AN AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE that does rely on the usual formula employed by the rom/com since its inception in all of filmdom – the uptight guy, the uptight gal, the easy breezy woman who’s wise in carnal ways, etc. – and most of the laughs emerge rather naturally from the anticipated if not expected interplay. All of the players here – Chernick, Sahay, Manninen, and Hampshire – have their ‘notes’ to hit, and they manage quite nicely to go from one ‘beat’ to another with enough charm to make a believer out of any skeptic in the audience.
Chernick’s first impulse is to find some way despite the distance between he and his lover is exactly what one would anticipate – to find a way to make her so jealous that she wants him back – and the plot unfolds rather organically after his visit to the strip club mostly ends in Tweeted pictures of disaster. However, through a comedy-of-errors I won’t spoil, Julia takes the man back to her apartment and stages a real picture – one of Jordan successfully seducing her – that puts the romance into this rom/com, and its Hampshire’s disarming charm that fuels much of what unfolds once the teacher and the student relationship has been established. She plays wonderfully off of Chernick’s “nebbishness,” so much so that I’m convinced that the picture – in any other two players’ hands – probably wouldn’t have worked as well as it did in the end. What starts out stoically eventually turns into something playful and that almost always leads into matters of the heart, as it does here in this lovely charmer starring two talents worth watching in the future.
And, yes, in case you’re heard about it, there’s a love scene involving a cantaloupe that’s probably worth the price of a rental alone. Bon appetit, y’all!
AN AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE (2012) (originally titled MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE) is produced by Julijette, Banana-Moon Sky Films, and Kosher Sexy Films. DVD distribution is being handled through Cinedigm. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds very solid consistently. Lastly – as appears customary with these releases coming with the Tribeca Film stamp of approval – there’s an all-too-brief behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew that mostly survives as a bloated ‘coming attractions’ short with very little substance: it’s nice to have, but it ain’t nothin’ all that special, and I would’ve liked to know more.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Inevitably, what makes any romantic comedy work is the chemistry of its leads, and, in that respect, stars Chernick and Hampshire send just the right amount of sparks as the dour, sexually-underskilled accountant and the big city dancer, respectively. The story? Meh, it could’ve used a few brush-ups, but, all-in-all, it’s a winning update of the classic formula: boy-meets-girl, girl-teaches-boy-a-few-tricks, girl-loses-boy, but true-love-wins-out-in-the-end anyway. A fractured fairy tale, indeed.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Cinedigm provided me with a DVD copy of AN AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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