Directed by Lynn Shelton
Combinations of “bromance” and “mumblecore” will inevitably be used to describe Humpday, with the latter qualifying the former: “An I Love You, Man that, through the honesty of independent filmmaking, dares to go further by testing the waters of actual male sexual tension.” Or so some will say when, in fact, the opposite is true.
Writer/director Lynn Shelton’s film relies on Hollywood formula up to a critical point: responsible married man Ben (Mark Duplass) plays host to wandering bohemian friend Andrew (Joshua Leonard), whose uninvited pad-crash is frowned upon by Ben’s wife Anna (Alycia Delmore). Ben envies Andrew’s sexually liberated lifestyle, while behind his Sal Paradise act Andrew suffers shame at never having completed anything, including a threesome he abandons due to a hang-up over dildos. The two decide to face their fears by fucking.
The ramifications of this absurdly planned act — to be recorded for a porn festival, no less — come across as much by way of comedy as by candidness. The mumblecore style of loose, handheld camerawork for once promotes sharp performances and perfect timing: it’s all in the delivery when Ben compares a half-naked hug with Andrew to greeting a long-lost friend at a swimming pool. Too bad, then, that Shelton fails to follow through on her premise, stopping short of saying something new about contemporary masculinity by leaving Ben and Andrew at the precipice of the taboo and her film at the edge of genre parameters she can’t quite bring herself to transgress. Ultimately Humpday is, like its characters, all talk.
Opens July 10