As mumblecore movies go, Humpday has probably the highest concept you’re likely to find – two former college buddies struggle to prove to each other they haven’t lost their respective wild sides and end up entering an amateur porn contest in which they will have to have sex with each other. What’s surprising is that this never feels like much of a stretch. The plain spoken manner of the genre has more than a little do with that, the events unfolding naturally enough to help the viewer clear that first hurdle. After that, you’re in for a ride.
So Ben (Mark Duplass) is enjoying a settled down life in Seattle with his wife Anna (Alycia Delmore) – they’re starting out, they’ve got the house, the jobs, and they’re working on having kids. Then late one night Andrew (Joshua Leonard), Ben’s best friend from college, shows up unexpected and starts to cast a light on the ways in which Ben has calmed since his wilder days. While it’s not necessarily a criticism, Ben takes offense. He doesn’t want to believe he’s not capable of pushing the envelope like he once did. And Andrew just wants to finish something that he’s set out to do – in reality, he’s a little jealous of what Ben is a closer.
Ben and Andrew both have something to prove. One night they’re getting drunk with a bunch of Andrew’s artist friends who bring up a local amateur porn competition. Everyone seems to have an idea – and of course they’re all only interested in making something that would have some sort of artistic merit, that would push some kind of boundary, not your run-of-the-mill pornography – and Ben comes up with the ultimate scenario – two straight guys, not otherwise attracted to each other, doing it.
Of course Andrew accepts the challenge – and that’s what it really is. Ben wants to reclaim his wild side and Andrew wants to prove he’s not a fraud. None of it has anything to do with any real sexual motivation or love (kind of like real porn). It’s a basic male bonding ritual taken to the extreme. A pornographic game of chicken.
There’s not even a little bit of this situation that’s not interesting if you buy it in the first place. How can Ben navigate his way past Anna to being in a porno with his best friend? If he’s in a porno with his best friend, what does that do to that friendship? If he goes through with it, does that make him gay? If he doesn’t go through with it, does that make him an uptight coward? No matter what Ben does, it brings up questions of fidelity, sexuality, honesty, self-knowledge. There’s no easy way out.
The actors all have a nice sense of keeping things natural and the film doesn’t dwell on anything for too long. The situation is so rich that there’s plenty of ground to cover in 94 minutes, so thankfully there’s not a lot of time for navel gazing. It’s a particularly American film, too, in how it plays with everyone’s sexual hang ups – it’s hard to imagine this playing the same way in Europe, for instance. Though none of these characters is truly homophobic, there’s an obvious gut reaction to this idea – even the most positive reaction leads to laughter. There’s something not natural about it, but only because of who these particular characters are. That Humpday is based on such a simple idea and that the simple idea had never really been exploited – considering all the buddy comedies we’ve seen even just since Judd Apatow hit the scene – is kind of a miracle. And it’s definitely worth a watch.
The film is presented in 1.78:1 and was shot on digital video, so there’s a video texture to the whole thing that is a staple of the realistic mumblecore movement. The audio is presented in English 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 with Spanish subtitles and is a good match for the visuals.
Commentary with Lynn Shelton, Alycia Delmore, Benjamin Kasulke, Nat Sanders, Vinny Smith, Jasminka Vukcevic, and Jennifer Maas – Very few commentaries run this deep into the crew. An informative track.
Commentary with Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard – A somewhat less informative track, if only because their work was already so strong in the film – what more do you need to know?
Behind the Scenes – An interesting bit of talk from the cast and crew, though the film really does speak for itself. (6:04)
Deleted Scenes – Several deleted scenes from the movie, many from the last act, all of them wisely cut. (19:18)
Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment – Four trailers for films from Magnolia and a ad for HD-Net. (9:23)
Humpday is the high concept blockbuster of mumblecore films – a tense, smart drama about two dudes trying to figure out whether or not they should do it with each other.