Bed Head - Jonas Chernick Ponders Sexual Hang-ups In Latest Film

By Martin Knelman
The Toronto Star — January 5, 2013

It's still early in the year, but I'm ready to predict that the movie My Awkward Sexual Adventure will be Canada's sleeper hit of the year - and a career breakthrough for its multi-talented writer, producer and star, Jonas Chernick.

"Sex can be embarrassing, clumsy and funny," Chernick explained this week over cappuccino. "My character has to confront his hang-ups. It's something we can all relate to, even though most people don't want to talk about their own."

After having its world premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Awkward went on to be chosen as the audience's favorite movie at two other festivals, in Calgary and Whistler, B.C.

Moving into 2013, Awkward will be showcased as one of Canada's 10 Best of the past year, with two public screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox in mid-January.

Then in April, it will begin regular runs in both the United States and Canada.

I'm betting Cineplex customers will be just as delighted and grateful as festival-goers for that rare experience - a gritty, unglamorous and low-budget Canadian romantic comedy that also manages to be raunchy, hilarious and truthful.

At 39, the versatile Chernick - who grew up in an upper-middle class Jewish family in Winnipeg and moved to Toronto in 2000 - already has an impressive track record. Two earlier movies, Inertia (2001) and Lucid (2005), fared well on the festival circuit.

He has also had continuing TV gigs, including roles on such hit Canadian series as The Border (for which he won a Gemini), Degrassi, Living in Your Car and The Eleventh Hour, as well as a guest lead appearance in the USA Network series Covert Affairs.

In his new movie, Chernick plays a nerdy Winnipeg accountant named Jordan, whose girlfriend Rachel dumps him because he's inept in bed. Devastated, he flies to Toronto, where he is determined to take instruction on how to improve his sexual skills and, he hopes, win back Rachel.

He hooks up with a charmingly kooky stripper named Julia (played by the irresistable Emily Hampshire) who becomes his guide to erotic success, giving him some memorable lessons in exchange for his advice on how to sort out her disastrous finances.

Enroute to mastering boudoir skills, Jordan has to confront his own insecurity and anxiety in episodes that require him to shed his clothes along with his inhibitions and, in one case, walk around Toronto's Gay Village in drag.

It's a movie in the tradition of Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall - but with a distinctively Canadian personality. And Chernick's performance as a likably neurotic fumbler trying to strut like a macho hero reminded me of early Woody Allen and even Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr..

My Awkward Sexual Adventure started out as a clash-of-cultures comedy about a Jewish guy who falls in love with a shiksa - but during a decade of rewrites, it turned into a sex comedy in which religious background is not the issue.

"The reason I'm a working screenwriter is that, as an actor, I felt a lack of opportunity," Chernick explains. "Actors spend a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring, and have a lot of down time. And of course, I write stuff for myself. I can't imagine I would be interested in telling a story that would not have an opportunity for me to act. I have yet to write a script that doesn't have a plum role in it for me."

But he claims he's no Orson Welles. "I have no ambition to direct." And, in fact, the director of My Awkward Sexual Adventure is Chernick's frequent collaborator and long-time friend Sean Garrity - to whom Chernick happily defers. (Their only serious disagreement was about what hairstyle was suitable for the main character.)

Chernick, who is married with a daughter, is quick to laugh off any notion that his script is autobiographical. Still, it takes daring to embrace the role he wrote for himself. How many actors would be eager to play a character whose chief distinction is being a flop in the sack?

My Awkward Sexual Adventure will be screened at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12 and at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13.

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