reviewed by Marc Glassman
Lynn Shelton, director, writer and producer. Starring: Mark Duplass (Ben), Joshua Leonard (Andrew), Alycia Delmore (Anna), Lynn Shelton (Monica), Trina Willard (Lily)
How far will a bro’ go? It wasn’t that long ago when men found it difficult to hug each other in public. A lot of metrosexual miles have been traveled in just a few years and now birds do it, bees do it and any cool male does it. They don’t fall in love with their bros exactly but outright displays of affection accompanied by hugs and even kisses are no longer outré. A smart dude might not hug his “brother” in a sports bar but at a downtown club, it would be more than Okay.
Lynn Shelton is clearly an observant American indie filmmaker. She’s seen her hetero actor friends mock-salivate over each other. In her new film Humpday, she asks the question, “will a couple of sober consenting heterosexual men make love to each other?”
Shelton has chosen her protagonists quite well. Mark Duplass (Ben), the younger brother of director-actor-writer Jay, is a Mumblecore icon, one of those late twenty-early thirty year-old guys who is making a reputation as an edgy improviser, ecstatic to be working in low-budget films. Joshua Leonard (Andrew) starred in The Blair Witch Project and has the laid-back lost look of a disappointed romantic down pat. They convincingly look and act the parts of a couple of old college buddies.
The set-up isn’t bad either. Andrew shows up at Ben’s door one night. It’s coitus interruptus—or nearly—for Ben and his wife Anna who are trying to have their first baby. Andrew is a travelin’ man unlike his now settled best buddy. He doesn’t know where he’s going—and Ben isn’t sure that where he’s going is all that great.
The duo head out to a party the next night hosted by bisexual Monica, played by quadruple threat terror Shelton, who also directed, produced and wrote the film. There, the conversation turns to Humpfest, a local film festival dedicated to indie erotica. The bros’ decide to out-cool everyone at the party: they declare that they’ll make love in front of the camera despite not being attracted to each other “that way.” It’ll be art, not porn.
There’s the delicate question of how to explain this crazy choice to Anna. And then there’s the matter of doing the deed itself. Clearly, Shelton has the audience’s attention. And, to be fair, this year’s Sundance Film Festival awarded Humpday a Special Jury Prize for Independence of Spirit.
Some people consider the resulting film to be funny and daring. This reviewer wishes that he could agree. But there’s nothing erotic or revealing in the last half of Humpday. One wishes for a sexual subtext but it doesn’t exist. Nor is there a satiric point to the film. Just like two guys wanting to be cooler than they are, Humpday is all talk and no action.