Actor Jonas Chernick would have never expected a government employee to suggest that the movie for which he was applying for funds should show more male genitalia.
Yet that’s exactly what one representative of funding organization Telefilm Canada insisted upon reading the former Winnipegger’s script for My Awkward Sexual Adventure, which in completed form was officially selected as one of Canada’s Top Ten Films in 2012 by the Toronto International Film Festival.
The movie – cheerful, male-and-female nudity intact – makes its theatrical debut in Winnipeg on Fri., April 19.
Jonas, who grew up in River Heights and attended Grant Park High School and the University of Manitoba, is also star and a producer of the film. The movie is his fourth collaboration with Winnipeg director Sean Garrity, after features Inertia (2001), Lucid (2005) and Blood Pressure, released in theatres last month.
"My goal was to make a marketable sex comedy, but then have an art house director inject it with integrity," Chernick says. (Inertia won the award for best Canadian first feature at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival.)
That balance seems to have been successfully struck: the film has, on the one hand, won the people’s choice and audience awards for best feature at the Calgary International and Whistler Film Festivals, respectively.
Chernick has also never had a film sell to as many markets around the world, including such diverse destinations as France and South Korea. Even the remake rights have been sold to three different countries already.
Also on that TIFF list, however, are such titles as Cosmopolis by celebrated Canadian director David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) and Rebelle, nominated for the 2013 Oscar for best foreign language film.
(Sharing the populist end of that list with Chernick and Garrity’s film was cheerfully violent hockey comedy Goon, shot in Winnipeg and other parts of Manitoba.)
"We’ve been stunned and delighted," Chernick says.
Set in Winnipeg and Toronto, the movie concerns accountant Jordan Abrams (Chernick), who brutally discovers his bedroom skills need improvement when his proposal to fiancée Rachel (Gemini Award-nominated Sarah Manninen) is rejected: "I can’t spend the rest of my life having sex with just you!"
Desperate to win Rachel back, Jordan turns to Julia (Genie Award winner Emily Hampshire), a sexually liberated exotic dancer who serves as his guide and mentor in the demi-monde of Toronto’s myriad red-light destinations.
Which brings us back to more genitalia.
Right from the start, Garrity says, neither he nor Chernick wanted to make a sex comedy in which, post-coitus, "the woman rolls over and the sheet is magically covering her," Garrity says.
"That’s not reality."
Indeed, Chernick and Garrity sought to put the "sex" in sex comedy: the film’s signature scene, the two agree, has turned out to be that in which Jordan clumsily practices some of his technique on a cantaloupe.
"That one scene is funny – it’s explicit, yet not," Garrity says, seemingly pleased.
The cantaloupe is even on the movie’s poster.