By Mike Syzmanski
“Humpday” is a movie that is made to make you squirm. No matter who you are, or what your sex or sexual persuasion is, this premise alone is enough to make you uncomfortable – and perhaps that’s the whole point.
Two old friends, Ben and Andrew (Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard) haven’t seen each other in a long time, since their wild younger days together. Ben has settled down with his very open-minded wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore), and Andrew, on the other hand, has never settled down and is as wild as ever. In fact, he pops in unannounced at 3 a.m. one morning and asks to crash on their couch. Then, when Andrew finds some new friends in town, including a bisexual girl (played by the film’s writer and director Lynn Shelton), they come up with an idea to enter a film-festival contest about sexuality by filming them having sex with each other. Two straight guys together having sex won’t be porn, it’s art. Right?
Now the premise itself may prove that Shelton hasn’t watched enough porn, perhaps. Gay porn is full of guys who look like they’re gay-for-pay and not really into the sex. Same for straight porn, for that matter. It’s not art at all. This is a buddy movie that is turned on its head. Maybe it’s even more uncomfortable by the fact that it is written and directed by a woman. I, personally, had a hard time believing some of the dialogue that came out of the guys’ mouths. It seemed unrealistic and almost too feminine.
The guys, after all, are not GQ models, and aren’t really guys you’d want to see naked. They’re average schlubs, both a little pudgy. Ben has that guy-next-door Jimmy Kimmel look and Andrew has that carefree scruffy hippie attitude that can be endearing, but do we want to watch them having sex? The guys talk about masturbating, kissing each other, and hairy balls. Then, the married guy, Ben, talks about a “moment” he had when he was attracted to another guy, but protests, “I don’t think I’m gay.”
Andrew emasculates his buddy by saying, “I’m embarrassed that I did not have one of those moments, I wish I was more gay.” Yet, as liberal as Andrew seems to be, when he’s presented with a three-way with two women, he’s a bit unnerved. He walks out on them when one of the women brings out a fake penis. The biggest obstacle in the movie almost isn’t the actual act, but how they’re going to tell Ben’s wife, Anna. She listens and is shocked, but sums up, “I think it’s important that you work this out before we have a baby.”
As they set up the camera to make their “art” film, in the Bonin Hotel in Seattle, Andrew muses, “Dude, I think if they see me they know I’m straight.” Then, they count to five and kiss, and he says, “It wasn’t that bad.”
I’m not going to ruin the ending, and you’ll have to see it if you really care who’s topping whom, or if they even go for it, but it’s the anticipation that makes the ride the most fun.
Ben sums it up, by thinking aloud, “I have different sides to my personality. On one side I want to get married, buy a house, and have a family and that side swelled up and it just crushed all the other sides.”
So why do they do this? Ben again sums it up, by saying, “We’re doing this because it scares us more than anything else in the world.”
Andrew replies, “There’s nothing that I want to do less.”
They set out to make a piece of art together. It wouldn’t be a piece of art, and this movie isn’t really the piece of art that they touted at Sundance, where it got rave reviews, but it does make you feel uncomfortable, and there are a few laughs. It may make you get in touch with your bisexual side, or it may forever bury it.
Stars: Mark Duplass, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton, Joshua Leonard
Director: Lynn Shelton
Studio/Official Site: http://www.humpdayfilm.com/
[Mike Szymanski is a Hollywood-based freelance writer and author who has written for “Entertainment Weekly,” “USA Today,” the “Los Angeles Times,” and many websites.]