Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Humpday" Review

"Humpday," Lynn Shelton's indie about straight men attempting gay porn for an erotic film festival, has been praised for its honest portrayal of male relationships, but any goodwill I had for the film was squandered on the intensely dislikable protagonist, the (come on) unbelievable plotline, and complete lack of dramatic payoff. "Humpday" is a stillborn Sundance fiasco with few if any redeeming qualities.

The premise, while certainly original, takes shape only after overcoming a rickety stepladder of cliched comic situations. You know them: crazy old friend needs a place to crash, husband forgets wife's special dinner, husband lies, digs himself deeper. The situations might have been forgivable in an ends-justify-the-means sort of way, but the film is being sold on its premise and its title, and fails to deliver as advertised.

The principal cast is small and they argue a lot. There's Ben (Mark Duplass), the idiot husband who plays both sides, either blaming his wild friend for his own decisions or condescendingly touting his "great" relationship with his wife as a wildcard for his reckless behavior, his buddy Andrew (Joshua Leonard), the slovenly, worldly hipster whose artsy lesbian acquaintances spark the drunken conversation that leads to the auspicious idea, and Ben's eternally forgiving wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore), whose ability to tolerate her husband's stupidity is surely her greatest asset. Most of their dialogue is improvised, and the film frequently feels more like six fifteen minutes scenes than a properly paced comedic feature.

The laughs are few and far between the clunky roundabout verbal tennis matches, and are completely undercut by the characters. It's assumed we feel Ben and Andrew's friendship at least peripherally, and the filmmaker portrays them as lovable, misguided heroes, though the 'misguided' bit is the only part that really seeps through.

Worse yet, the script only lamely attempts to legitimize Ben or Andrew's inexplicable desire to see the act to its completion. Even sober, neither will back out of having sex with the other, in what we can only assume is the female writer/director's misinformed representation of machismo. And when Ben tells his wife, "I'm not sure why I want to do this," it reads as a screenwriter's confession. The two behave like stubborn children for an hour, only to somewhat appropriately chicken out when the moment arrives, and the film becomes more an examination of exceedingly weak characters than their bond of friendship as a result.

"Humpday" brings very little to the independent film scene, and is never as funny or controversial as the trailer might lead you to believe. Truth told, the film plays it safe, reducing its homosexual content to the type of jokes you would expect in any given PG-13 sex comedy. There's precious little genuine human interaction on display, and while the cop-out ending imagines itself a more profound statement than its alternative, it ultimately cancels out the only interesting thing the film has going for it. It's a reaction I couldn't anticipate, but I've never been so disappointed by a lack of gay porn.


No comments:

Post a Comment