Jan 19 2010

Humpday

Bromance; a twentieth century term that describes the rambunctious platonic relationship between a man and “his boys.”  Although there have always been jokes about the borderline homoeroticism inherent to bromance, no one has ever presented it in the way writer/director Lynn Shelton has in Humpday.

Just as married couple Ben (Mark Duplass) and Anne (Alycia Delmore) call it a night, Ben’s old college friend Andrew (Josh Leonard) shows up unannounced.  Although the two revel in their shared past, its clear that both men are in two entirely different places and have little in common; Ben has settled into a suburban life complete with house, white picket fence, and the intention of raising a family, while Andrew has been living life on the road a la Kerouac as a wandering bohemian artist.

While out at a party, Ben and Andrew begin to drunkenly discuss Hump Fest, a local event in which amateurs submit artsy pornographic videos, and come up with the idea of videotaping themselves having sex with each other, as the idea of two heterosexual men engaged in homosexual activity is particularly edgy.  The next day, both men continue discussing the idea and become obsessed with it for different reasons; Andrew wants to finally see an artistic idea through to completion, and Ben wants to rebel against his own vanilla temperament that accompanies suburban living.

I’ll take the opportunity now to state that there is no way I can continue this review without unwittingly writing down dirty puns and double entendres in an attempt to describe this film.  Anything, from describing the film as “touching”, to saying that “both characters formed a deeper connection between one another” will be taken wildly out of context.  Although I usually condone such wonderfully juvenile sensibilities, for the purposes of this review, keep yourselves in check.

The prospect of two heterosexual men having sex with one another may be difficult to swallow, but Shelton seems to make it work by making fun of machismo and the stubborn refusal to back down from a dare or a bet.  Of course, the

Honestly, guys ordering Appletinis are more suspect than these two.

prospect of two men refusing to pussy out from having sex with each other sounds ridiculous, but then again, so is the whole phenomenon of one-upping amongst men.  Besides, men tend to be inappropriate and crass when they get together, so having a dare escalate to such an extreme is actually quite plausible.

Some may find this film difficult to watch due to its mildly sluggish pace rather than the subject matter, believe it or not.  As part of the “Mumblecore” movement in indie cinema, the film appears to be shot on a handheld camera, and much of the dialogue is choppy and full of “umms”; sometimes it makes a scene appear more realistic, and other times its just tedious.  Although the scenes between Andrew and Ben are the most entertaining, the rest of the scenes with other characters seem to meander as they only function as setup or context to later conversations between the two leads, yet doesn’t stand up on its own merit.

Naturally, the plot is kept afloat by “will they, won’t they” tension, but what keeps the film afloat and worth watching are the revelations and insights concerning identity.  There are a few scenes in which Ben and Andrew, whilst struggling with the prospect of physical intimacy, are emotionally intimate with one another and reveal feelings of regret, loss, and the need for companionship or purpose in a way that is honest, bold and, dare I say it, heart warming.  These scenes make the entire dare into a clever little macguffin that allows two men to explore who and what they are.

The entire film is more or less a build up for the final twenty-minute scene, which takes place in a hotel room where the dirty deed is to be done.  I won’t spoil whether or not anything happens sexually, but the scene is wonderfully done, and manages to be both funny and touching at the same time.  Both Duplass and Leonard have fantastic chemistry and give sincere performances, thus making their concerns about that next step into maturity and personal re-evaluation as sincere as sincere gets.

Regardless of what your perceptions of the film are, Humpday proves to be quite a surprise.  Despite its sometimes sluggish pace and a concept difficult to take seriously, the film manages to dig deep and produce something very human with a considerable amount of heart, and turns a movie about weird sexual escapades into a story about true intimacy.

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