David Campion on Humpday: Keep your friends close. How Close?Posted: February 4, 2011
Humpday is a mumblecore film. Let’s get it straight; mumblecore doesn’t necessarily equate to mumbling. In fact, Ben and Andrew, the two thirty-somethings inhabiting director Lynn Shelton’s Humpday, are both articulate and verbose.
Mumblecore, the film movement, fits in nicely between true American indie and the alternative pathway to cinematic success known as Indiewood. With a recognisable aesthetic, usually distinguished by a tell-tale digital handycam look, Mumblecore is driven by a wave of filmmakers who aren’t waiting for the typical indie budget [indie does not mean cheap] and are opting instead to shoot ultra lo-fi dramas with very three dimensional characters at their heart.
Humpday feels like a broad comedy, not 100 miles away from an Apatow flick. Pairing mumblecore icon, Mark Duplass [who, along with brother Jay, recently directed the Sundance breakout Cyrus] and Joshua Leonard [one of the few faces from The Blair Witch Project still visible in the industry], Shelton deconstructs the male psyche and explores male friendship and, to an extent, sexuality. Plot wise, the film exists as a simple logline; ‘Can two straight best friends have sex for the sake of art?’ Wrap your head round that and try to write a 90 minute film.
Boasting a sense of naturalism lacking from mainstream comedies, Humpday takes a potentially silly concept and injects it with warmth, humanity and intelligence. Showing a savvy understanding of male relationships, Shelton’s camera remains almost invisible; never straying for style, nor using extreme angles for cinematic effect. Instead, the audience are given front row tickets to enjoy the complications of friendship, especially when sexuality and masculinity are questioned.
A key scene involves Andrew [Leonard], being offered a threesome involving two arty girls [one played by director Shelton]. As any freewheeling, warm blooded male would, Andrew jumps at the chance, spreading himself between the two desirable females. However, when a dildo pops up [literally] into the equation, Andrew is hesitant and eventually cowards away. Now, if Andrew can’t permit a dildo to enter a sexual scenario, how will he react to a real life penis? Or, is it the circumstances of the dildo? Is he threatened by female sexuality, especially as he would be competing with a perfect version of the male sexual organ? Surely he couldn’t offer as much pleasure as a manufactured sex weapon? However hard we try, we’ll never get our dicks to vibrate!
Some would say Humpday is a critique of the male specie. Whether it’s competition on the basketball court, or competition in the bedroom; the primitive desire to ‘one up’ one other is what urges these two straight men to have sex in the first place. However, maybe it’s less about being the ‘bigger man’ and more about the worry of slipping into real adulthood. Ben is in a stable marriage and trying to have a child. Andrew is an artist and a drifter [described as Kerouac by Ben], but both men are nearing middle age, something which affects everybody, however different their lives are. Is having a sex with your friend the ultimate way too say “FUCK YOU” to society? Will the profundity of the moment be enough to turn the hands of time back and unite them as the friends they once were? Take what you will from both the conclusion and the sentiment, but one thing cannot be denied; Humpday is an accurate representation of the timelessness of friendship. Heart-warming, natural and deeply affecting… Take that Judd Apatow!
David Campion is the Co – Director of Patrol Men
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