Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Humpday: A Review

A few months ago, I saw an article in The Advocate about a new film called Humpday. The article was so intriguing that I immediately logged into Netflix and added the film to my queue. A few days ago it arrived in my mailbox and on Sunday I watched it.

Humpday is an indie film, with no big names, and a very interesting premise. It is the story of two 30-something, straight male friends who decide to make a porn film together for a porn fest called Humpday. Now, if I hadn't read the article about it, I would have had my doubts and probably would never have watched it. I might have thought it was going to be offensive or just some crude comedy that is using gay sex for laughs, but Humpday is none of those things. It's actually an in-depth look at male friendship that isn't shown in most mainstream entertainment.

The two main characters, Andrew (Joshua Leonard) and Ben (Mark Duplass), have been friends for years, but their lives have moved in very different directions. Andrew is a wandering artist. He has no clear direction in life, but sees himself as very bohemian. Ben is more middle of the road. He is married, owns a house, has a desk job, and is preparing to have kids. The story is kick started by Andrew appearing on Ben's doorstep in the middle of the night. Immediately, their relationship is established and their differences apparent. Andrew has just returned from Mexico and claims he's going to be looking into some grants to finish up some art projects (it is later revealed he has never completed an art project in his life). In the background of all this is Ben's wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore). She doesn't know Andrew very well, but loves Ben and is willing to go along with him staying at their place for the weekend. 

So how do we get from this to making porn? Well, pretty easily and pretty quickly. Andrew meets up with some artists and Ben and him end up spending a wild night with a group of free-thinking creatives who are all making films for an upcoming porn film fest called Humpday. After various drinks and some weed, Ben and Andrew come up with the idea of making a film for the festival of the two of them having sex or "boning" as they like to call it. They believe this will be a great art piece because they are two actual straight males and it will be something different (yes, I know you gays boys are thinking but 70% of gay porn sites claim the guys are straight, but we all know, or should know, 99% of the time they are lying to us). 

In the morning and sober, both are unwilling to back down from the idea, but at first it seems based on male competitiveness and their own views of each other. No one wants to be the one to say I can't or won't do it. Andrew thinks Ben is too square to actually go through with it and Ben tries to make Andrew realize he's not as free-thinking and bohemian as he might like to think. In the end, they decide to do it. There are various other hurdles (Anna, the wife of Ben, for one), but they do make it the hotel room, camera in hand. 

I won't fully give away the ending of the film, because I encourage you to see it, but I will say I was pleasantly surprised and moved by this film. It's very indie. It has a little bit of the shaky filming that is popular in the genre, but it works here (I often find it annoying in other films). The acting is extremely natural and very well done. Much relies on dialogue in this film. The main three characters (Andrew, Ben, and Anna) all have moments of great discovery and insight through their conversations. 

At the heart of this film is not a joke about porn or gay people, but rather a real statement about men and how they relate to each other. It also touches on the notion that we aren't always the people we envision ourselves to be or hope ourselves to be. Andrew isn't fully the artist and liberal thinker he wishes to be, though he plays the part and wears the clothes. Ben is unsure about the vision he is making of himself as a husband and family man and longs to do something wild and crazy. Male friendship is often not shown with much depth in film and television (don't even get me started on the bromance films). Humpday takes us on an unconventional journey that might sound slightly unbelievable, but might be one of the most believable films I've seen in a long time. 

Towards the end of the film, there is a great line about how they could have done anything together, so why did they pick making a porn? And one of them says "because this scares us more than anything else we could have done." The film questions that built-in homophobia many straight men have, but not in an annoying or reaffirming homophobic kind of way. Instead, it highlights this fear of intimacy straight men can have with each other, but does this by showing true male intimacy.  

-Stephen (Humping)

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