Judge Brett Cullum wonders how he ended up watching a bromantic comedy.
Some loves are meant to be. This one, not so much.
I think this a first for me: a low-budget bromantic comedy with a rather gay plot aimed at a straight audience. I have to hand it to the makers, pretty brave genre bending there. Shot on the cheap with handheld digital cameras, Humpday is destined to become a bromantic comedy classic of the mumblecore genre.
Focusing on a relationship between two guys who are best friends at a crossroads in their personal paths, most of the dialogue is improvised, so we get long scenes of two dudes going on and on about where they are and who they want to be. There's only one twist, provided by the scenario upon which Lynn Shelton (My Effortless Brilliance) bases her entire script: she wonders how far two straight guys will go, if challenged to sleep with each other. That's definitely the wild card Humpday plays, and why most viewers will sit down to watch it.
Ben (Mark Duplass, The Puffy Chair) is living in suburbia with a stable job and faithful wife (Alycia Delmore, Annie Goes Boating). Having reached the point where they are trying to have kids, it looks like they've settled down into where society expects them to be. One night, Ben's bohemian friend knocks on the door, well after midnight. Andrew (Joshua Leonard, The Blair Witch Project) is a traveling artist who has just come from wandering aimlessly through Mexico City. The college buds catch up, and Ben finds himself at a kinky lesbian art gathering where an odd topic comes up. It seems there is going to be an amateur porn film festival in a week, and everybody is trying to find a way to make it more interesting. Andrew jokingly suggests he and Ben should film themselves as two straight guys making love, to express their affection and fluid nature. Everybody loves the idea, and soon they're committed to doing it. Now they just have to tell Ben's wife…and actually go through with it.
Humpday is a funny idea, with some truly clever moments. Male bonding is a mysterious thing, and certainly worth exploring. The central idea for the film sounds far more interesting than what we end up getting. There is a lot of talking about identity and what is normal, which comprises the bulk of the film. Anyone hoping to see a climactic love scene is going to be severely disappointed, but then that's never where Humpday is heading. It's an interesting look at sexuality, but I can feel a woman's hand in the direction and script. From my observation of straight male friends, Ben and Andrew seem a little too eager to try this experiment, let alone champion it. Maybe I'm women are more fluid than guys, but I can't imagine two average men talking this much, sharing all these feelings. A more apt scene has the two friends playing basketball, which physically spirals out of control—that I can see happening! Guys relate to each other more physically, so having them talk about sleeping with each other seems a little out there from the start. It's certainly an interesting concept, though.
The DVD from Magnolia comes loaded with multiple commentaries and plenty of features. They've really gone out of their way to support a movie about talking with a lot more yapping right over it. There is a director and crew commentary, and also one with the two male leads discussing their parts. Both are interesting listens that reveal a lot about how the film was made. There is a short behind-the-scenes featurette, and quite a large number of deleted scenes. There are unused endings which show different resolves, and entirely different takes on scenes throughout the film. The technical presentation reflects the film's low budget, but looks fine considering the handheld digital source being used as the master.
Humpday is an interesting look at two guys who wonder just how far they can take their friendship, revealing jealousies that arise between people who are in different places in their lives. While it less successfully explores the fluidity of male sexuality—one can debate how much that exists for these two—the film is an interesting return to the talky low budget charm of the mumblecore movement.
Guilty of relying on a great idea and a whole lot of talking, Humpday
asks the question how far a bromance can take you. Unfortunately, it only asks
and never answers.
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