Friday, August 21, 2009

Movie Review: Humpday

Humpday *** ½
Directed By:
Lynn Shelton.
Written By: Lynn Shelton.
Starring: Mark Duplass (Ben), Joshua Leonard (Andrew), Alycia Delmore (Anna), Lynn Shelton (Monica), Trina Willard (Lily).

Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) were best friends in University, but in the years since then they have drifted apart. Ben took the more the more conventional road, getting a job, getting married to Anna (Alycia Delmore), buying a house and deciding to start a family. Essentially, he has become a responsible member of society. Andrew on the other hand never finished University, and has spent the years since traveling around, mostly in Mexico, doing art projects (or at least starting them - he never seems to finish them). One night, at 2 am, Andrew shows up a Ben and Anna’s door, with a ceramic duck, and announces he’s in town for a little while, and would they mind he stay there? They allow it - that’s Andrew, Ben sighs, what can you do? Anna, who barely knows Andrew, remarkably understands.

The next day, Andrew meets a girl at a coffee shop (he’s always doing that), and ends up at her place, at a wild party full of fellow free spirits and artists. He invites Ben over, and during the course of the night, they get drunk, get stoned, and talk - a lot. They find out about an amateur porn festival, that anyone can enter. They start talking about what kind of porn they would make, and then Ben hits upon an idea - why not make a film about two straight men having sex together. That would be different. Andrew agrees, and soon they have decided to film this amateur porn in a few days. Now all that they have to do is tell Anna.

Humpday is an independent movie that is essentially made up of one conversation after another between the characters. Once Ben and Andrew have agreed to do this, they sort of dare each other not to back out. Neither one really wants to go through with it, but neither one wants to be the one who backs out. They goad each other, mock each other. They obviously do care about each other, and maybe are even a little attracted to each other. Part of the reason they want to make this movie is because they are too afraid to look like a chicken in front of the other man, but there is more there then just macho posturing.

That the film was written and directed by a woman is somewhat telling. The film reminded me of the work of Judd Apatow, and the other films in recent years that I have called romantic comedies for guys. In many of those films, I have noticed a lot of homoerotic subtext - the guys in the movies seem to like each other much more than they like the women in them. The guys are least interesting, well rounded characters, and there have been a few moments (in Superbad and I Love You, Man especially) when I have felt that the male characters were on the verge of making out. Humpday takes this to its logical conclusion. Not only that but the wife character in the movie, which is usually just mindless uninteresting characters seen in these movies, but here she is as interesting as the male characters. When Ben explains to Anna why he wants to go ahead with the porn movie, he explains that he feels that some of the other sides of his personality have been crushed by their marriage. When she reveals that she also has other sides - and then reveals one to him - he says “I thought you were lying when you said you had other sides”. That’s the attitude of most of these filmmakers. The guys are interesting, funny, well written and drawn, and girls are perfection personified, willing to put up with just about anything from their men.

The films final scene in an extended sequence of the two men in a hotel room together, where they are set to make their porn movie. I will not reveal what happens in that room, but I will say that like the rest of the movie, it is hilarious, heartfelt and perceptive. This is an honest movie from beginning to end, one that understands its characters, and loves them in a strange way. The film is funnier than most big budget comedies are, but also more perceptive about its characters. Most movies would have ended a few minutes before this one does. But the look on the face of the character left in that room at the end is subtle, yet heartbreaking. This is a wonderful, little comedy.

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