Friday, September 11, 2009

Humpday


Lynn Shelton's Humpday takes what on the surface is an absurd idea (two straight men having sex on camera for a homemade porn contest called "Humpfest"), avoids the obvious pitfalls and winds up being a surprisingly gentle comedy about roads not taken and the consequences that result from our choices. Ben (Mark Duplass) is awakened one night by the arrival of his former college buddy Andrew (Joshua Leonard), an itinerant "artist" whose lifelong underachievement is unspoken between the two friends. To the surprise of Ben's wife Anna (Alycia Delmore) the arrival of Andrew brings out a different side of Ben, who skips out on a dinner to hang with Andrew and a group of bohemians he latches onto almost immediately.

There is a side to Ben that his marriage, job, and planned-for baby don't fulfill, and the proposed sexual encounter with Andrew (devised during that drunken bohemian night) doesn't have much to do with either man's sexual orientation; both Andrew and Ben continually refer to it as the "art project." Humpday is NOT a movie about someone discovering he's gay (though it veers close to that at one moment); both Ben and Andrew feel a need to "finish" something in their lives and think making the sex tape will be a way to find a missing sense of achievement. In a long, funny, and emotionally frank talk at the movie's climax that the two friends realize they must keep going down new paths rather than backtracking old ones. As a film Humpday bears all the visual and dialogue trademarks of "mumblecore," but its open-heartedness and confrontation with adulthood are welcome signs in a genre too often inarticulate and immature.

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