Someone has let writer-director Lynn Shelton behind the dude curtain. There’s really no other explanation for how she understands the ins and outs of the “adult” male species so well unless some love struck or drunken male sat her down and gave her the inside scoop. Well, I guess there are other ways. For instance, a keen eye for the way we dudes act and interact coupled with a group of great actors who understand subtlety. Add those things together and Shelton’s fourth feature film “Humpday,” very astutely nails us fellas to the wall.
Ben (Duplass) is a happily married Seattle dude who owns his own home with his attractive wife Anna (Delmore). Shelton immediately shows her understanding of human relationships in the opening scene as the couple tries to muster the strength to make a baby late at night which, after a long day of working, isn’t always the most appealing thing to do. It all seems nice and normal until the doorbell rings at 2:00 a.m. and Ben’s long lost college pal Andrew (Leonard) is standing at the door looking for a place to crash. As awkward as that might seem, especially for Anna, Ben is genuinely glad to see his pal and sets him up with a sleeping bag and a floor to sleep on.
From here “Humpday” gets funny, uncomfortable and cleverly insightful as Ben and Andrew, start right in with that “guy thing” where we measure our cocks (not literally, sheesh) by constantly trying to outdo one another in a variety of arguments and implied dares. Andrew plays up the fact that he’s an artist and is free to do whoever and whatever he pleases, whenever he wants. In order to prove he’s not the cuckold Andrew is insinuating he is, Ben meets the small, personal challenges laid out for him by matching Andrew’s drinking, smoking and proclivity to stay out partying all night with random women. While you really have to be paying attention to see the tension rise, it bursts over the top when the two buddies decide to make an “art project” in which they (two “straight dudes”) will have sex together, film it and show it at a Seattle porn festival called “Hump Fest.”
For a pretty damned homophobic species, we males sure do alot of gay things. Be it the constant slapping of asses while playing sports to watching six-man gangbangs or Greco-Roman wrestling, we pass it all off as a guy thing. But as soon as a genuine male penis is involved, we freak out and run away like scared children. I mean, every woman I know has seen all of her friends totally naked and I’ve barely seen any of my friends shirtless, and thankfully so. See what I mean!? This whole idea of uptight male sexuality is at play in “Humpday” as is a rather painfully scathing look at how men act as seen through the eyes of a woman. The thing is, while filmmakers like Kevin Smith and Spike Lee end up projecting male fantasy versions of women on their “well written” female characters, Shelton gets it all too well. As a guy I must admit, she gets it uncomfortably right far too often and it made me feel genuinely shitty.
For all the insights onscreen “Humpday” is also really funny. Mark Duplass is up to his old every-dude antics and Joshua Leonard plays the flaky friend who you kind of fall in love with to a tee. I really liked Alycia Delmore’s performance as the straight-man Anna to Andrew and Ben’s immature antics. She plays the role realistically, reacting honestly but not in a cloying or nagging way which really makes you feel for her as a character. Then again how can you not have empathy for a woman married to a man-child who wants to make a gay sex tape for strangers to see?
Obviously the plotline of “Humpday” seems shocking and controversial and with good reason. However like the best of the best Indies making the rounds today, there’s much more going on than what you see on the surface. “Humpday” is like a peek into the brain of dudes and it’s either funny or discomforting depending on if you’re a guy or a girl. As a guy, I only prayed my wife wasn’t catching on.