Saturday, November 7, 2009

Humpday **1/2

Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore

Andrew (Leonard) and Ben (Duplass) were best friends during college but drifted apart as the years went by. Andrew ended up getting married and lives with his wife Anna (Delmore) in Seattle where Ben, who's coming back from a long term stay in Chiapas-where he did art with natives- irrupts one early morning unannounced.
Suddenly Ben finds himself in a strange party with Andrew's new friends; a group of hippies, artists and swingers.
While Anna sits at home waiting with a cold dinner, Ben gets drunk, high and agrees to do an art project with Andrew.
Said project, a movie which they will submit to the local Humpfest, will feature them having sex. The following morning trying to hide behind and accuse the hangover they rekindle their talk and realize this is something they actually want to do to prove how one of them isn't as "Kerouac" as he thinks and the other isn't completely "white picket fences".
Writer/director Shelton has some interesting points of view about how heterosexual males choose to bond and the movie has some really funny moments, that don't necessarily involve sexual orientation stereotypes.
As the movie builds up to the imminent encounter, to take place at the "Bonin' Motel", it's not so much the characters who begin to falter and doubt, but the filmmaker herself.
"What exactly about two straight dudes having sex on camera is a great piece of art?" asks Ben as he sits next to his buddy half naked.
The question isn't directed to them as much as it is to Shelton, who came up with a cute idea and later had nothing to say with it (as happens a lot lately in "art").
She then has them involve in a conversation that's half profound questioning of our sexual perceptions, half silly conversation- a keg away- from a frat party.
Her postmodernist attempt to question the existence of her own movie feels more like a happy accident than an intention; and in her search for a door into the heterosexual male's mind she only came up with clichés.
Her idea of what it's like to be heterosexual can't help but be stained by very feminist ways of thinking. Even when she might swear she's trying to make the guys seem reasonable, she ends up being condescending to them and towards homosexuality.
When Andrew reminds himself that he's about to star in a movie about "two straight guys boning", Ben instantly asks "how are they going to know that we're straight?".
It's sweet of Shelton to want to explore the fears that lie behind society's take on homosexuality, but when she makes Ben reveal that he had "a moment" with a guy during his teenage years (kudos to Duplass for making this scene seem much deeper than it has any right to be) the whole thing feels reduced to a movie about the incomplete bonding of two college buddies afraid of middle age.
Shelton may not get men in the way she wants, but with Anna she saves the movie from becoming insulting.
She isn't only the most grounded character in the film (a lot is owed to Delmore's bittersweet, mature performance) but she's also the only one who seems to have a life outside the screenplay.
Her dialogues are more planned and thought out than anything the boys have to say and even when she suggest to her husband that he should get "that thing" out of his system, she seems to be talking from a place of pure empathy and even love.
She also has a confession of her own and even if it's not a mindfuck of a revelation it feels more human and real than anything else featured here.
Sadly, "Humpday", like its characters, is never as open minded as it wants to be.

No comments: