The very first scene of director Sean Garrity's comedy My Awkward Sexual Adventure depicts the film's nebbish hero Jordan Abrams in a sexual encounter with his girlfriend Rachel (Sarah Manninen).
Let's just say it's an atypical movie sex scene. In fact, Rachel is sleeping through it.
That demoralizing moment sparks the movie's subsequent situational comedy: After Rachel rejects his marriage proposal, Jordan tries to win her back by flying to Toronto and engaging in a crash course in erotic know-how under the tutelage of a sexually seasoned exotic dancer (Emily Hampshire).
The premise automatically distinguishes itself from the usual Hollywood sex comedy. And the role of Jordan is certainly different from just about any movie hero. Ask Jonas Chernick, the 39-year-old former Winnipegger who not only plays Jordan, he created him on the page.
"This movie never could have been made in Hollywood," actor-writer-producer Chernick says over a coffee at the Free Press News Café.
"Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt, those guys just don't play this kind of character," he says. "The classic movie stars play strong, confident men. They would never play a character who is defined by his sexual inabilities."
It was not a problem for Chernick, who cites the Steve Carell comedy The 40 Year-Old Virgin as one of the rare Hollywood forays into "male sexual vulnerability."
"I saw it while I was writing this one and I was inspired by it," he says. "I thought: Here's a territory we haven't really seen in a comedy and I wanted to explore it and mine it.
"It's kind of worked well for us," Chernick concludes.
Indeed it has. My Awkward Sexual Adventure was voted one of Canada's Top 10 for 2012 by the Toronto International Festival, alongside the similarly ribald Winnipeg-shot comedy Goon. The film also won audience awards at both the Calgary International Film Festival and the Whistler Film Festival. Remake rights have been sold in France, South Korea and Lithuania. And when it opens in Winnipeg tomorrow, it will play on not one but two Cineplex screens (at Polo Park Silver City and McGillivray Cineplex), a far cry from the usual Cinematheque showcase for homegrown product.
"It's the widest release for any of the films that I've ever been involved in," he says. "It's being released through Cineplex so it's actually being released in multiplexes as opposed to art house theatres, which is very exciting and also seems very fitting for this movie.
"While I think (director Sean Garrity) brings his artistic sensibility to it, it is, in essence, a commercial comedy and so I think that's where it should be seen."
The film is Chernick's fourth feature collaboration with Garrity (including Inertia, Lucid, and the recently released thriller Blood Pressure). Chernick established his willingness to expose his vulnerabilities (among other things) from the get-go, with the memorable opening scene of Inertia in which his character is pathetically naked while being dumped by his girlfriend. In fact, it bears a shocking resemblance to opening of the 2008 Jason Segel comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, released seven years after Inertia.
"They stole that from us," Chernick says. "When I saw that movie, my jaw hit the floor." (He later acknowledges: "Either they saw my movie somewhere, which is possible, or they came up with the same idea, which is also possible.")
In any case, that experience prepared him for equally daring scenes in My Awkward Sexual Adventure.
"It wasn't until the day we shot that scene that it struck me what we were doing," he says. "I was very confronted with it and it was very, very difficult, but I was so glad I did it.
"It opened a door for me, I guess," he says. "I've always felt the best stuff, the best art, is about getting to the core of humanity and you can't do that unless you're willing to put it on the line.
"Men and women both tell me after watching My Awkward Sexual Adventure that they connect with it on a number of levels and I think that's great, because that's what it's all about," he says. "So if part of that comes from the shamelessness of my vulnerability and my nakedness, I'm willing to do it."
After the screenings of My Awkward Sexual Adventure at Polo Park on the evenings of April 19 and 20, producer Juliette Hagopian and actress Onalee Ames will participate in Q&A sessions alongside cast and crew members including actors Marina Stephenson Kerr, Andrea del Campo, Dean Harder, Stephen Eric MacIntyre, and Jessica Burlseon (early April 19); Kerr, Harder and Curt Keilback (late April 19); costume designer Wanda Farian (early April 20); and actor Randy Apostle (late April 20).