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Starring: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton

Directed by: Lynn Shelton

Produced by: Lynn Shelton

Written by: Lynn Shelton

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

As seen at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival:

    While hardly remarkable when viewed in isolation—that is, not compared to its mostly-dreadful mumblecore genre counterparts—Humpday nonetheless boasts several funny moments and a unique dissection of certain heterosexual males’ perplexedly fascinated attitudes towards homoeroticism.

     The basic premise: Ben (Mark Duplass, king of mumblecore) is a thirtysomething who has settled down into a quiet life with his lovely wife Anna (Alycia Delmore). But he begins to question whether taking the domestic route was the right choice when old, scraggly buddy Andrew (Joshua Leonard) shows up in the middle of the night looking for a place to bunk, only to take him partying the next day. Ben finds the youthful scene he left behind for marriage to be alluring, and soon enough he’s high as a kite. Loaded, he and Andrew proclaim to their hippie-dippy counterparts that they’re going to make a gay porn movie and enter it into competition at the popular local sex festival, Hump Fest. Instead of forgetting about the idea when they’ve sobered up, though, the two only further commit to it, as if it would be emasculating to not live up to the challenge.

     For once, the mumblecore style really fits the material—OK, maybe it worked in the Duplasses’ Baghead, too—but not in the way one might expect. Humpday clicks on meta level, as if writer/director Lynn Shelton and the cast are making fun of their commitment to the understated genre, which proves so unwavering that they use it to tell even this outrageous story. The tactic pays off immensely. For instance, had a pivotal scene in which Anna learns of her now-aspiring filmmaker husband’s plan been handled in an overbearing, desperate-for-laughs manner, it would’ve fell flat. The deathly serious, nearly sublime tone that Humpday instead opts for proves hilarious. When Ben and Andrew finally book a hotel room and get down to business, the experience reaches an uncomfortably comic crescendo. Both Shelton and her deadpan actors, especially the where-did-they-get-this-guy Joshua Leonard and the terrified-looking Alycia Delmore, are responsible for maintaining the delicate balance of comedy and bizarre realism.

     Unfortunately, the usual misgivings of mumblecore pictures still apply to Humpday, even if it’s better than the average genre-entry. When the humor falls flat—namely in the first act when Ben begins indulging in the party scene and in the second when Ben and Andrew constantly debate whether they should go through with the porno or not—the token style seems as boring and phony as it has ever been. Despite its many brilliant moments, Humday also has a tendency to look and feel like a bad student-film, as mumblecore efforts all-too-frequently do. Yes, Shelton’s picture is entertaining enough on the whole that it left me more optimistic about the genre and its core-players than I was going in, but I still ultimately doubt that it has much to say. Humpday touches on a few fascinating themes about masculinity and has its share of laughs, but one would be hard pressed to argue there’s enough substance there that it was worth making the film in the first place.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.26.2009

Screened on: 3.19.2009 at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, TX.


Humpday is rated R and runs 94 minutes.

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