August 3, 2009

Review: 'Humpday' – Two Guys Humping

"This film is not about sex. It's about the bounds of friendship and marriage, the expectations of success, the importance of exploring your limits." — Ben Mankiewicz


The high concept premise is simple enough. Two totally heterosexual male best friends get drunk and decide to make the ultimate alternative pornographic art project where they have homosexual sex together on-camera. This is the basis for the indie mumblecore comedy, Humpday, written and directed by Lynn Shelton. The film deftly crafts a raw and genuine feel to this film through its intimate and conversational mode of storytelling.

All the dialogue is improvised from a loose script and you can tell. Conversations ramble on, but that is okay. Humpday feels like a documentary as its comedy unfolds before your eyes. This comedy feels so natural and realistic. This movie is exceptionally funny. The constructions of the scenes are so delightfully comical. The humour is raw, awkward, and stark in its delivery and execution. In a way, Humpday is the ultimate "bro-mance" comedy. The conversations are filmed and delivered with incredibly sincerity and believablity.

"I think we might be morons."
The film stars Mark Duplass (one-half of the prolific mumblecore filmmaking team, the Duplass Brothers) as Ben, Joshua Leonard as his free-spirited artist pal, Andrew, and Alycia Delmore as Ben's wife, Anna. After college, Ben and Andrew parted ways. Ben got a regular job, a wife, a house, and is trying for a baby. Andrew travelled the world having random misadventures. In the middle of the night, Andrew crashes into Ben and Anna's home and life and throws things wildly off course for a few days. The standout of the film is Alycia Delmore as Ben's put-upon wife, Anna. She is sparkling as she grounds the ridiculous premise with genuine humour and realism.

Andrew wants complete this "art project" while Ben wants break out of his domestic pattern and test the boundaries of his humanity. The act becomes a representation of something scary, dangerous and altruistic. This project becomes a metaphor for breaking out of set ways and patterns and exploring the limits of conventional relationships. Humpday is layered with subtext throughout that provokes laughter and thought in an insightful manner that delves into our own humanity. The relationships between the three main characters are so well crafted and fleshed out as scenes meticulously move the story and comedic structure forward in a logical way that only adds to the ridiculousness of the situation in a realistic manner that evokes laughter.

"Two straight dudes. It's beyond gay."
What I love is the sheer logistics of how these two straight guys could even possibly have gay sex. The film is unpredictable, complex, touching, and remarkably adept in its humanity. Its themes are fully executed and never heavy handed. The relationships feel real and fully developed while the gags and dialogue are wildly hilarious. Ben and Andrew go through the entire film with sheer confidence and will that they will definitely go through with this terrible idea or at least attempt it. They want to show their total security and ultra-heterosexual-ness by having sex with each other. Ben and Andrew want to go through with this for very real, meaningful, deep, psychological reasons that add credence to the story and sustain the humour. This is much more than some macho pissing contest or dare that neither wants to back down from. These two friends are testing their own psychological limits. The anticipation for the ending rises throughout the film and the payoff to the premise is executed so well that it is completely credible and deeply satisfying in very funny way.

- "I wish I was more gay."
- "Then tomorrow would be a lot more fun."
Humpday is a solid comedy. Its mumblecore style of filmmaking never feels cheap, gimmicky, or sub par. The acting and direction stand out to craft a wonderfully real feel to an utterly ridiculous comedic premise. All the characters are charming and honest as the simple story opens up a treasure chest of complex psychological issues about relationships as it hilariously comments on the nature of everyday life. I cannot imagine a more intelligent movie about two guys humping.

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