MOVIE: Humpday (2009)

Okay, first things first, it kind of blows my mind that this movie is both filed under “Comedy” and has the phrase “phenomenally funny!” written in large, white letters across its cover art.  Because while, yes, this movie has its truly funny moments, it is SO not what I would consider a comedy.  Instead, I found this film to be an extremely tender, compassionate, and thoughtful look at friendship and love.  And man, while the concept definitely makes it sound like you’re in for a crazy laugh riot, if you spent the entire film snorting and giggling, YOU DID NOT GET IT, my dear, obtuse friend.

In some ways, the central storyline of this film is not all that new.  It’s about two men who were best pals in college and reunite after a long absence to find they’ve taken completely separate paths.  Ben (Mark Duplass of the fabulous grin) got married, has a steady job, and is now trying to start a family.  Andrew (Josh Leonard of the delightful eye-crinkles), on the other hand, has been tooling around the world starting art project after art project, finishing nothing, but striving always for adventurous greatness.  When Andrew finds himself back in town briefly, he decides to pay a visit on Ben, crashing his pad at about 1 in the morning.  Groggy, Ben and his wife Anna (Alycia Delmore of the great bangs) offer to let Andrew spend the night in their back room.

Andrew’s plan to keep the visit short gets revised, though, when the next day he meets a lovely bisexual (director Lynn Shelton) who invites him over for a party at her place that night.  Andrew in turn invites Ben, who half-heartedly invites Anna, who instead suggests he have a lovely time by himself and make it home in time for dinner.  The party is pretty crazy, however, and Ben gets sucked into it quickly, losing track of time.  By the time the conversation turns to porn, both Ben and Andrew are pretty wasted, and when one of the locals brings up the weekly newspaper’s annual Humpfest competition, they are instantly, drunkenly intrigued.  The contest goes like this (and, incidentally, the paper is Seattle’s weekly, The Stranger, and Humpfest is totally real):  enter a homemade porn movie into a contest, watch a screening of it and the other entries, vote for your favorites, win fabulous prizes.

Forgetting all about the waiting Anna, Ben and Andrew quickly pledge to make the perfect entry of all time for Humpfest.  The most original concept ever, brilliantly filmed, total ART.  What they’ll do, they say, is film themselves having sex:  two heterosexual males, loving friends, expressing their affection for each other in a way that is stereotypically WAY, WAY TABOO for straight guys.  It’s “beyond gay,” they say.  It’s virtually guaranteed to win!

The next day, sobered up, the ramifications of this pledge start to reveal themselves to the fellas, who have several long conversations and finally agree to go ahead and give it a shot.  Meanwhile, Ben lies to Anna about it, and Andrew doesn’t, which leads to a whole lotta messy marital conflict.  And while I understood why Anna might be a bit weirded out by the entire concept (oh, sort of, anyway), I do have to say I was really no big fan of hers.  Some of that was because of the painful, painful spectacle of a woman so desperate to have a baby she’s completely separated the act of sex from romantic-love-type emotion.  And then has the gall to go all bonkers about her husband when he, essentially, declares he wants to do roughly the same thing.  Some of it was just the sulking.  She sulks a LOT.  Much as I loved her bangs, I do sort of hate sulkers.  Oh, I have issues.  I’ll shut up.

Andrew and Ben, on the other hand, I absolutely adored.  Their relationship is fascinating and believable, and the dialogue, much of it apparently improvised (something Leonard in particular has demonstrated he’s quite adept at), is sharp and just so, so RIGHT.  Their conversation in the hotel room, when they finally come together to make their film, is among the best dialogue between two male friends in a movie I’ve ever encountered.  It was just so authentic.  I felt like I was standing in the hallway eavesdropping while this real thing was happening to these real people just beyond the door.  This is almost exactly the same reaction I had to Shelton’s earlier film, My Effortless Brilliance (which costars Basil Harris, by the way, one of the members of the ex-Boyfriend of the Week band Awesome), and I was pleased beyond reason to discover that it wasn’t just a fluke.  There’s something about the way her characters talk to each other that hits it right smack on for me, and I love that.  I love it so very, very much.  I think it’s amazing and rare and great.  I think this movie is amazing and great.  I think Lynn Shelton is amazing and great.  And, while I’m at it, let me also mention that I think Josh Leonard’s eye crinkles are amazing and great.  (Watch for him in an upcoming Boyfriend of the Week write-up, by the way, because I can resist his charms no longer.)

Consider me a fan, Ms. Shelton.  And believe you me, I’m in it for the long haul after this one. Looking forward to what you do next.  Though, I do have a question for you — I’ve now seen two of your films, and both of them featured one character telling another character that their hair smelled really great.  Is that line your yellow Oldsmobile Delta 88?  Do you know what I’m talking about?  In any case, I’m looking forward to hearing that line for a long, long time.  Bring it on, lady.

[Netflix it (available on Watch Now) | Buy it]

Genre:  Drama, Not Really Comedy
Cast:  Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton

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2 Responses to “MOVIE: Humpday (2009)”

  1. Liz Says:

    Now I find this interesting: I’m either much more shallow than I realized about what movies I’m interested in, or this proves the importance of packaging, advertising, and even names of titles. I would NEVER have considered seeing a movie called “Humpday!” I just assumed it would be sophomoric nonsense, along the lines of “There’s Something About Mary,” but without the cult following that that film seems to have generated.

    Your review really surprised me, and made me think, well, maybe I ought to rent it from Netflix. It reminds me, in reverse, of how I used to get sucked in by interesting boxes for VHS movies, and then being not only disappointed, but also confused.

    In fairness, I should also say I once rented a movie, with John Cusack, and Gillian Anderson, called “Hell Cab,” thinking it was a horror movie. When it turned out to be a rather interesting – and rather cerebral – “slice of life”/character study, I was at first disappointed, but then realized that I might never have seen it, if I’d known what it was really all about, So the mis-representation worked in my favor.

    Thanks for continuing to give us intelligent reviews. They really help me figure out which movies to watch.

  2. megwood Says:

    Ha ha, I love that you’re all, “No way would I ever rent a movie named ‘Humpday’ . . . ‘HELL CAB,’ on the other hand. . .” You are awesome. AWESOME, lady.

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