Sundance Review: Humpday
Two heterosexual men making amateur porn is not gay; as Lynn Shelton’s Humpday puts it, it’s beyond gay. With that tag line Shelton endeavors to tell a story that is anything but exploitative or shocking art film, as the title and general synopsis would have the audience believe. What Humpday ends up being is an exploration into what makes up a relationship, and how two men can come to a place to physically show their love for one another. This is the first film to delve into that buddy comedy world in such an awkward way. In the end it’s not the porn, or even the two friends’ love for each other, that makes the movie work. Every moment of the film rings with truth and honesty, a rare and welcome thing for comedic movies.
At its core Humpday is about the reunion of two best friends after 10 years apart. Wild party animals back in college Ben moved on with the “American Dream.” He’s established himself in a soul sucking job, married the woman he loves, and has bought a house. Meanwhile Andrew has gone on a globetrotting wild spree continuing his carousing ways. The two find each other at 2 a.m. on the front porch of Ben’s house, much to his wife Anna’s chagrin. The cliché Odd Couple storyline is hinted at in Shelton’s script, but never fully forms as she turns those conventions around to explore what really lies beneath each of us.
During a wild Dionysian party Ben is sucked into at Andrew’s behest, a plan forms to enter an amateur porn contest called “Humpday,” where entrants try to take back porn from the silicon enhanced misogynistic industry. Ben decides that what would truly say something is two men, both vehemently heterosexual, making a porno. From this launching point Humpday ceases to focus on the porn itself and instead sheds light on how people are, at their core, a certain type of person. Ben, the straight laced corporate lackey, still exists as the guy who likes to do wild things and explore the world in alternative ways. Andrew, in a hilarious scene involving two women and dildos, begins to realize that his cavalier attitude about sex may not be as truthful as he has believed. Even Anna, the woman who domesticated Ben, reveals that she too has other needs and desires. In one of the truest moments of the film Anna explains about making out with a guy in the bathroom at a party and how great it was, but then turns around to say that she was happier than ever to return home because she knew how good she had it.
Humpday doesn’t treat sex lightly. Anna’s indiscretion at a party isn’t about cheating on her husband, nor is Ben’s desire to complete a porn art project with his best friend. That would be too easy, and is exactly what audiences may expect from the movie. The final scene is a long discussion between Andrew and Ben as they prepare to make the porn in an overly beige hotel room. What transpires is a hilarious look at the insecurities and hang-ups most heterosexual men have when showing love for each other.
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