The Potato celebrates “Humpday”

Every film invites the audience to emotionally include themselves in the events unfolding on screen. While Hollywood is now using 3D technology and IMAX screens to draw audiences in, sometimes all you need is a good story about people we can relate to on some level. When I turned on 2009’s “Humpday”, I expected to watch a comedy about two random dude friends who decide to make porn together on a whim. I had seen the trailer months ago and had decided that it would be a rental, as the trailer played up its bromantic comedy elements, and I had already seen “I Love You, Man” a few months prior. As I scoured my Netflix instant play options for something new, I noticed that “Humpday” was available for streaming. After some technical difficulties with the internet connection, I was ready to experience 100 minutes of male bonding gone awry.

You first! No, you first!

The plot is simplicity itself: Ben is just a normal suburban guy with a great wife, a good job, and a white picket fence existence. Andrew is an artist who travels the world looking for the great inspiration that will allow him to finally complete an art project. When Andrew unexpectedly drops in on Ben and his wife Anna (at 1:30 in the morning, no less), it shakes up all their worlds in ways that no one could anticipate. During a drunken stream of consciousness, Ben and Andrew decide to shoot an amateur porn scene together on the pretense that two straight male buddies having sex on camera could be the “next great artistic statement” and of course, Anna has no idea of their plans.

As the viewer, you have to believe that these two guys would come up with such an idea and actually want to realize it. I think that the film being set in Seattle helped me believe the premise right away. If it were set in a place more thematically obvious like San Francisco, the film could almost be read as satire. Putting the film in Seattle allows the viewer to believe that these guys could be open minded enough to shoot a pseudo-gay art-porn scene while not having to pay lip service to any gay stereotypes. Not to say that San Francisco is full of gay stereotypes, but some viewers who have never been to San Francisco or only have a limited exposure to alternative cultures might unfairly judge the film or write it off as just “another one of those crazy indies.”

As Ben and Andrew respectively, Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard have great chemistry. I could see how these two disparate characters would be friends, and their performances suggest a past that the characters shared without having to use a lot of expository dialogue to explain it. Duplass reminds me of John Krasinski while Leonard’s performance has shades of Owen Wilson (with a sprinkle of Zach Galifianakis, and I’m not just talking about the beard). As Ben’s wife Anna, Alycia Delmore gives a very honest performance. Anna serves as the female perspective to all the male-centric craziness that it happening around her and Delmore’s performance keeps the viewers (and the male leads) grounded in reality. She’s the one that gets to ask the questions that we all want to initially ask: “Hey, what do you mean you’re going to make a porn with your best friend? What the f*ck is up with that?” I only wish that Delmore had more screen time, as her character unfortunately takes a back seat to her male co-stars. I would love to see these three do another movie together.

Alycia Delmore

Writer-director Lynn Shelton frames the actors in simple, home video style scenes that feel intimate almost to the point of sheer discomfort. I kept listening to the dialogue but sometimes I couldn’t look at the screen as they were saying it. I was so embarrassed for these characters at times because they felt so real and familiar. It very much feels like you are in these conversations, and that you are a party to the events that are unfolding in front of your eyes. Shelton directed the film from her own script, but I wonder about how much the actors improvised because the dialogue feels very natural and flows as real conversations would. The opening scene with Ben and Anna in bed together is one of the most true to life moments between a man and a woman I have ever seen in a film, and it’s not even that shocking or important to the story. It isn’t necessarily a film about sex or pornography or even art. It’s about all of these, and none of these. It’s a film about two men discovering what it means to be close friends, and the crazy ends that some friends will go to understand the nature of that closeness. Mainstream films like “The Hangover”, “Pineapple Express”, and “I Love You, Man” deal with the same issues but use homoeroticism as more of a sight gag than a statement, which is fine because these films do it well and it’s good to laugh at masculinity sometimes. “Humpday” plays less like an addition to the new bromantic comedy pantheon, and more like a deconstruction of it. The film simultaneously questions male masculinity while reaffirming it as well. The film ends in exactly the way that it should, but you have to see it to believe how it all turns out. All around, “Humpday” is one of the best films I’ve seen all year, and I recommend it to anyone who loves independent film as well as people who might have thought “I Love You, Man” played it a little too safe. I give it a 9 out of 10.