(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reel Thoughts: The Incredibly Not True Adventure of Two Straight Guys in Bed

If Old Joy mated with I Love You, Man, the spawn would be Humpday, the Sundance Festival Special Jury prize-winning film written and directed by Lynn Shelton making its debut on DVDtomorrow. The salacious, but slightly misleading, set-up is that two straight male friends decide to make an amateur porno film featuring themselves as stars. Will they or won’t they? And what effect will it have on the men if they go through with it?

Shelton stages the film in an almost documentary-style intimacy, and she gives one of the best performances in the film. Does Humpday live up to the hype? Maybe not, but it is an intriguing character piece that delves into the straight male psyche in a way few films do.

Ben (Mark Duplass) and his wife Anna (Alycia Delmore) are a happily married Seattle couple ready to have a baby, when Ben’s old pal Andrew (The Blair Witch Project’s Joshua Leonard) shows up on their doorstep after wandering the globe. He wants to reconnect with his old friend, but the next night he hooks up with the free-spirited (and bisexual) Monica (Shelton), and he invites Ben over to her artist’s commune. The uptight Ben is at first taken aback by all the overt sexuality, but soon he and Andrew are drunk and high and discussing the Seattle Film contest called Humpfest (a real festival started by Dan Savage where people submit their amateur porn films).

Almost as a dare, the two guys decide that the ultimate taboo would be to have two straight men have sex together, and each man wants to see it through to prove that they are not as inhibited as they fear they are. As filming night approaches, Ben neglects to tell Anna his plan and Andrew can’t quite handle a sexual encounter with Monica and her lover Lily.

Shelton captures the dynamic between friends who are subconsciously envious of each other and the utter terror straight men feel when out of their sexual comfort zone. Duplass’ Ben is let off the hook too easily in his scenes with Anna, but Leonard manages to embody the kind of aimless guy who passes off lack of direction as “Kerouac” coolness. Duplass also has a nice moment when he describes an encounter he had with a video store clerk. The ending isn’t satisfying, but Shelton nails her Seattle milieu perfectly.

More an anatomy of a bromance than a sexual adventure, Humpday is still worth a tumble.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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