Almost Humpday

Humpday opens with a pair of breeders in bed. A youngish married couple, Ben (mumblecordeon Mark Duplass) and Anna (Alycia Delmore), confess that they’re too tired to procreate that night. As if in response, the doorbell rings at 2 a.m., and Ben’s long-lost college buddy, Andrew (Blair Witch Project survivor Joshua Leonard), stumbles in from deepest Mexico. Anna watches the unexpected bromantic action with grim incredulity. Reuniting an uptight married man with a footloose old pal, Lynn Shelton’s third feature offers a (much) more extreme version of Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy, also a sort of buddy movie, also shot in the Pacific Northwest. In this case, the lost weekend is steeped in sexual anxiety. Prompted by news of an amateur porn festival — sponsored by a local alt-weekly — Ben finds himself proposing to co-star with show-off Andrew in a mad art project, dude-on-dude action, totally straight, yet somewhere “beyond gay.” The only problem: Just who is going to bone whom? Having thus invested its protagonists in a game of “chicken,” Humpday delivers some excellent situation comedy, but the movie is actually less a queer comedy than a satiric view of macho. Appreciative as Shelton may be of her dudes, she has another agenda. Each in his way, the guys have been freaked by a manifestation of assertive female sexuality. As for what happens? Don’t ask, I won’t tell. Suffice it to say that, last seen beating their midriffs like apes, Ben and Andrew confront the fear but not the desire.
Tue., Sept. 8, 6 p.m., 2009
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J. Hoberman
Contact: J. Hoberman