On Saturday, Tom and I went to a screening of “Humpday” as part of BAM CinemaFest.
I first wrote about “Humpday” here; from the press release:
It’s been a decade since Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) were the bad boys of their college campus. Ben has settled down and found a job, wife, and home. Andrew took the alternate route as a vagabond artist, skipping the globe from Chiapas to Cambodia. When Andrew shows up unannounced on Ben’s doorstep, they easily fall back into their old dynamic of macho one-upmanship. Late into the night at a wild party, the two find themselves locked in a mutual dare: to enter an amateur porn contest together. But what kind of boundary-breaking, envelope pushing porn can two straight dudes make? After the booze and “big talk” run out, only one idea remains-they will have sex together…on camera. It’s not gay; it’s beyond gay. It’s not porn; it’s art. But how exactly will it work? And more importantly, who will tell Anna (Alycia Delmore), Ben’s wife?
After the film, writer-director Lynn Shelton and actor Joshua Leonard were on hand after to participate in a Q&A and it yielded some fascinating insights into the process of making the film.
“Humpday” has been making the film festival rounds for sometime now and much has been said about how a female writer – Shelton is given the sole writing credit – was able to so accurately capture the physical dynamic and nuanced dialogue between two straight men on such a topic as primal, sensitive, and unique as two straight friends having gay sex. (This is not a Judd Apatow film, thank god).
Shelton admitted that she could never have written the dialogue you hear in the film and knowing that at the onset, chose to only loosely script each scene’s plot points and leave virtually all the dialogue to be improvised by the film’s actors. Additionally, there were very few rehearsals but very lengthy meetings preceding the shooting of each scene, which were all shot in chronological order. The result is absolutely brilliant (not to mention hilarious) and is likely partially bolstered by the fact that Duplass and Leonard are straight friends in real life, too.
What’s so hilarious about “Humpday” is that there are few actual punchlines; much of the humor and laugh-out-loud moments are a result of watching people react ever-so realistically to circumstances that are really not that bizarre. The dialogue, physicality, and editing spotlight the nuances of these scenes so effectively and create such intimacy that you can’t help to laugh along. (It should also be noted that the film never traffics in anything that is even remotely anti-gay or degrading to gay people – again, not a Judd Apatow production.)
While most of the screen time is given to Ben and Andrew, Alycia Delmore – who plays the wife of Ben – presents a wonderful, multi-dimensional character (again, not a Judd Apatow film) that is especially brilliant in the scene in which she learns of Ben and Andrew’s plan.
In asked about her motivations to write the film, Shelton said she was fascinated by how, even among her very liberal, gay-accepting friends there still was a seed of “homosexual anxiety” – a fear that a straight male in his mid-thirties may be gay and not know it. (Curiously, she noted that one viewer in his 60s told her that it finally changed his mind about gay rights and that being gay is surely not a choice.)
There are tons of meta issues you can pull from the film about heterosexuality, straight male friendships, masculinity, marriage, and sex. The film, thankfully, does not get weighted-down in these conversations but instead revels in the awkwardness created by the intersection of them all; it is more about friendship, machismo, and one’s own self image than questions of (homo)sexuality or the logistics of anal sex.
“Humpday” will see a wide release July 10. It is, unfortunately, sharing an opening weekend with “Bruno.” While I haven’t seen Bruno, I can guarantee that “Humpday” is loads funnier and definitely smarter.