The second annual Portland Film Festival kicks off Tuesday, August 26, at the Crystal Ballroom with the world premiere of its main film Sex Ed, a coming-of-age comedy directed by Isaac Feder and starring Haley Joel Osment.
“I can’t wait to see this movie with a big audience,” says Feder about the premiere. “It’s going to be an unforgettable night. I’m psyched about Portland and the cast and crew are excited to come to Portland for this. Portland feels like the right place to play it—the right place to get the movie started.”
Sex Ed is Feder’s first feature film, and he, Osment, and other actors in the film will be present for the premiere and the after party held at the same venue.
Sex Ed is the story of a recent college graduate and aspiring educator Eddie (Osment), who settles for a position teaching an after-school detention class of middle-schoolers. Once Eddie discovers that the students are tragically misinformed about sex, he decides to instruct the class in sex education. And, of course, chaos ensues.
But not exactly in the traditional story arc of your typical Hollywood movie. Sex Ed has all the ingredients of a Hollywood comedy; it’s very well written and the humor is delivered expertly by the cast. But extra care is taken with the story and with the film as a whole, particularly with the nuanced approach the film takes with the subject of young adults learning to cultivate mature relationships. Sex Ed is a moralistic tale, nicely packaged as a dirty joke.
“It’s about being sexually, romantically, and emotionally responsible,” says Feder. “That’s the message of this movie.”
And Feder and screenwriter Billy Kennedy deliver this message with fresh, clever, and yes, raunchy humor, lacing the film with every uncomfortable question a middle schooler ponders about sex, questions that Osment’s character Eddie has to field.
As for Osment, if the PFF audiences have not followed his career since his success in dramas as a child actor, they will be surprised at how adeptly he handles a role as a comedic lead. Notable moments in the film include scenes where Osment and veteran improvisational actor Matt Walsh (whose character Washout all but solidifies the notion that the back offices of government bureaucracies are the refuge of misfits and perverts) discuss their careers as educators, as Washout, smoking in his office, spikes his soda with liquor and explains how the kindergartners never judge you whether you’re having a bad day or are maybe a little drunk.
“Haley’s a wonderful comedic actor and he has wonderful comedic timing,” Feder says, “and was comfortable in the improvisational situations with actors like Matt Walsh.“
Sex Ed’s soundtrack is another thing that sets it apart from other traditional comedies. Portland audiences will enjoy the film’s music that is worthy of it’s own release as a soundtrack. Sex Ed is packed with Cuban and American jazz as well as blues.
Since the film is set in Ybor City near Tampa and features many scenes in a Cuban jazz bar, having a blend of Latin and American music was important to Feder to audibly reflect the culture shift his main character is going through. And having a score that reflected his main character’s old soul was key as well. Feder found the music he was looking for via connections that Osment had with Daptone Records in Brooklyn who produce contemporary soul as well as Latin music.
“I’m a huge soul and neo-soul fan. I love Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Menahan Street Band, The Budos Band. I thought that music would really echo what’s going on in this twenty-something guy’s life who is struggling to figure out how to be a man,” says Feder about the Eddie character. “I wanted to create a soundtrack that made people want to get up and dance, and move and feel young, and feel the sexiness and energy of this coming-of-age story.”
Portlanders can celebrate the world premire with the Sex Ed cast and crew Tuesday, Aug. 26, at The Crystal Ballroom. Tickets are available HERE.
— Ross Blanchard