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Overall Rating
3.84

Awesome31.58%
Worth A Look31.58%
Average31.58%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 5.26%

3 reviews, 1 rating


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Humpday
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by Erik Childress

"The Amateur Porn Trilogy Is Complete"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Have you ever thought about screwing your best friend? No pressure, we’ll get back to that one. If there are any signs of hope that our culture is finally loosening up a little bit in regards to sexual taboos, we’ve seen an upsurge in films about average joes dabbling into the porno industry. Granted, few people were fortunate enough to see The Amateurs with Jeff Bridges thanks to some legal entanglements with its financiers. And Kevin Smith’s film wasn’t quite the success it probably should have been last year, but he had “porno” right there in the title. At least until some twitchy TV execs started advertising it simply as “Zack and Miri.” So maybe we’re not quite so refined yet. People need opportunities to laugh though at the expense of an industry they may detest. It’s why we have Tyler Perry. Humpday may not work within the parameters of actual porn, but Lynn Shelton and her cast have tapped into something even more outrageous, and instead of using it for mere shock or gross-out value, they explore the deepest rooted fears of every red-blooded American male in a way that laughs Revolutionary Road off the screen.

Ben (Mark Duplass) is a happily married guy and homeowner. Living in Seattle with an attractive wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore), they are at the stage of wanting their first child but even she’s understanding enough to know when they are both too tired to conceive. Ovulation be damned, they want to be in the mood and not just go through the mechanics. Their tired eyes are nevertheless awoken that night when Ben’s college buddy, Andrew (Joshua Leonard), excitedly knocks on their door looking for a place to crash. Not the most convenient of favors, but Anna appears to accept the code of male bonding (including all the rapid punching between the pals) and raises not a finger of protest while the backpacking Andrew gets a spot in the basement.

Anna even agrees to make the trio her famous pork chops for dinner the next night. But Andrew comes along other plans when he meets another free-spirited bohemian (played by director Lynn Shelton) and invites Ben to stop by her pad. A casual drink turns into a few more and a night of music and pot and with that comes a lot of talk. Andrew has been introduced to a Seattle film festival known as “Humpfest” and discusses his interest in participating it amongst his newfound friends. His oldest friend though hits upon the potential for the “ultimate art project.” What if two completely heterosexual male buddies were to have sex on camera? It’s thrown out there in the spirit of libation initially, but even after Ben has sobered up he pledges his sincerity on following through on his pitch.

Who in their right mind would go along with such an idea? It’s a question that the film leaves on the surface for us to figure out for ourselves and chooses for the most part to never offer a definitive answer. Even as Ben recounts a story from his past that might suggest some untapped curiosity, we never quite get around to accepting why he might be the aggressor in this situation and it’s a chink in Humpday’s armor that some might found difficult to get around. It was never far from my own mind. And maybe if the film went down the route of some pretentious statement about homophobia in our culture, we would have washed our hands of it and not anticipated the climactic act and how our boys would handle it. But Humpday uses it absurd premise for maximum comic discomfort and its this approach that should have audiences unable to look away unless they are doubled over in laughter.

Anyone can just write sitcom punchlines or try to copy the reference humor of Kevin Smith or the Apatow o’veure. To develop situations that corner its characters in a trap of their own mistruths and then force them to confront those moments instead of delaying inevitable unmaskings until the last possible moment is not just tricky, it’s almost a lost art. Comedies of manners even in the golden age had a dependence on slapstick that always kept us at ease as if we were watching a cartoon rather than flesh-and-blood humans. The characters in Humpday bleed a fear of normality and take refuge in wanting to prove to just one other person that they haven’t conformed for good; if not the better. And we can identify with it. Watching Ben try to talk his way around his impending experimentation to his wife is somehow more hilariously cringe-inducing than the moment of truth, which itself is a classic stretch of comic acting perfectly realized by Duplass and Leonard.

Duplass is most known for his work in the labeled Mumblecore indie features, particularly another wonderful relationship journey called The Puffy Chair which is also co-wrote. With his work on Humpday, he is poised to become not just one of the indie staples around the festivals but the reliable Everyman character actor that you may be seeing soon enough in wide releases. Joshua Leonard also breaks free from the decade-long funk of being just one of those Blair Witch guys and knows just how far to stretch Andrew’s care-free attitude and where to pull back so we don’t unfairly label him as just another antagonistic influence or hippie without a cause. Both actors are great and Lynn Shelton shows a tremendous flair for staging comic dialogue and knowing just when to deliver the punch that sends it into overdrive and eventually from shock into awwwww.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18171&reviewer=198
originally posted: 02/19/09 02:10:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Traverse City Film Festival 2009 For more in the Traverse City Film Festival 2009 series, click here.

User Comments

11/09/11 hurdygurdy man Huh? BAD, really, really, really, really BAD!! 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Jul-2009 (R)
  DVD: 17-Nov-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  10-Jul-2009
  DVD: 17-Nov-2009


Directed by
  Lynn Shelton

Written by
  Lynn Shelton

Cast
  Mark Duplass
  Joshua Leonard
  Alycia Delmore
  Lynn Shelton
  Trina Willard



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