HUMPDAY (Lynn Shelton, 2009)

“It’s weird. I’ve never kissed stubble before.”

I do not see writer-director Lynn Shelton’s Humpday, one of the mumblecore entries, precisely as do others, but I agree that it skewers male buddyism, post-schoolguy nostalgia, and bromance. The film is on target when it finds married Ben aggravating his wife, Anna, by choosing unexpectedly visiting college chum Andrew for a night’s entertainment despite Anna’s kitchen detail with pork chops, originally planned for the three of them, which gets whittled down to two and then just Anna herself, and the fact that this is her last night of ovulation in her current cycle and she and Ben have been trying hard to have a child. Stupidly, guys do things like that, especially when, like Ben, they are trying to prove how “free” they are even though they are married, how much they are still like their old, carefree selves. Question: Am I the only one to whom it occurred that Andrew’s tales of worldwide travel are largely, if not wholly, made up to compensate for the actual loose-endedness and disappointment of his post-collegiate life? Regardless, Ben feels he has to measure up—a variation on, Shelton implies, measuring something each of them has between his legs.
     Andrew appears to be in a dark, desperate frame of mind. Each manipulating the other, the two young men agree to go to the Pacific Northwest pornographic “Humpfest” (an actual festival) on its opening day, Humpday, hole themselves in a hotel room, and make a gay porn film showing two “straight guys”—themselves—having sex. Here is where I seem to see a different movie than do many reviewers. In the one I watched, besides Ben’s testing of repressed homosexual feelings for someone in his past, which he confesses to Andrew, Andrew is actually in love with Ben, or believes himself to be, and believes he is on the threshold of the night of bliss he has tricked Ben into. This is an offensive example of Shelton’s having gone ridiculously far with her premise.
     Intermittently, nonetheless, Humpday is hilarious. Overall, though, it’s a cold, mean-spirited, repugnant thing wrought by a possibly deranged filmmaker none of whose other work I have any interest in seeing.
     Shelton, best director, Gijón.

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