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Humpday: It's not just Wednesday anymore
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Humpday: It's not just Wednesday anymore

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Humpday
Opening July 10


Straight men! You can't live with them, and you can't leave them on the curb when you're finished. They are violent, juvenile, myopic, recalcitrant, and lecherous. Okay, in the interest of fair play and unwavering political correctness, I should have said they are often violent, juvenile, myopic, recalcitrant, and lecherous. If this is true, how can they also be so damn charming?

Watching my straight friends play sophomoric games of macho one-upmanship is like ripping time and traveling back to the junior high locker room. They may be taller and hairier, but they can revert to a 13-year-old mentality in less time than it takes to get to 60 mph in a brand spanking new Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. If this is true, how can they also be so damn charming?

I could go on.

So, what would it take to capture this charming dichotomy that is the adult heterosexual male in all his sweet vapidity and silly macho posturing in a theatrical film? That's simple: a woman director.

Director Lynn Shelton (My Effortless Brilliance) works a little feminine magic and conjures one of the funniest, most honest, and finely balanced cinematic takes on the American heterosexual man ever made with her new feature, Humpday. Shelton proves without a doubt that winning the "Someone to Watch Award" at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards was spot-on.

Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) are college buddies separated by 10 years and vastly disparate lives. Boring Ben has a job, a home, and a wife. Artsy Andrew has a history of romantic trekking through an idealist's hotlist of economically challenged regions around the globe. When Andrew drops in to meet Ben's wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore), and catch up with his old friend, the aforementioned rip in time occurs and the boys slip into an adolescent pissing contest during a racy party while Anna is home alone in suburbia eating pork chops with over-oaked Cabernet.

However, this isn't just any pissing contest. Bragging rights are for total artistic commitment. The challenge is diddling your straight buddy and filming it.

The acting is amazing by the talented cast that also collaborated on character development and writing. Delmore is hilarious as she tries to incorporate the idea of her husband trysting with his old friend who she doesn't really care for in the first place. I'm not sure if she is more frustrated with images of her husband doggie style with a dude or with the fact that it's Andrew.

And when the boys get down to the nuts and bolts of the deed, their inability to be the first to back down is just as funny as how they try to figure out the logistics of the affair. The sweet tension just keeps building within the small hotel room until I could barely sit still. To the credit of all the writers, the ending is exactly right. Just when you think they've painted themselves into a narrative corner, the whole thing ends in what you realize, in retrospect, is the only way it could.

The only real quibble I have with Humpday is the pointless pains taken to insure we see the Dionysus sign on the house in which the Dionysian party takes place. If you already know who Dionysus is, you don't need the reference. If you don't know who Dionysus is, it's lost on you anyway. The sign did give me a momentary sense of warm superiority as I acknowledged knowing that I knew what the reference meant. Satisfying, indeed.

If this small detail is all I can find to bitch about, it must be obvious how much I like this film. The collaborative writing between Shelton and the actors is smart and funny. The characters are fully drawn and force us to consider how relationships change and how they change us. I wondered how they would pull off a film about straight dudes having sex, but this cadre of upstart filmmakers gets the job done splendidly.

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