Starring: Mark Duplass, Alycia Delmore, Josh Leonard
Directed By: Lynn Shelton
Humpday is a film that really put the outcome and direction of the movie in the hands of the actors. Director, Lynn Shelton, wrote an outline of the plot of the film and who these characters were, but that is about where the pre-determined writing of the film stopped. The rest of the film was entirely improved. The actors made up their own dialogue as it came to them and even decided what would happen in the end, a pressing question through the entire film.
Ben (Duplass) and Anna (Delmore) are a happily married couple who are trying to have a baby to build a family together. They have a nice house, good jobs, and are ready to move on to the next step of their lives. However, in the wee hours of the night, a blast from Ben’s past, his best friend from his single days, Andrew (Leonard), shows up. Andrew stays with them and brings out the old Ben along the way. When Andrew meets a girl he likes, he invites Ben to meet her and his friends. Anna had planned to make dinner to try to get to know Andrew, but since Andrew wants to stay there, Ben agrees to simply make an appearance then have dinner with his wife.
At first Ben gets a very weird vibe from these people and is not sure how long he wants to be there anyway. As they start drinking and their better judgment goes out the window they start talking. The subject of Humpfest comes up, which is an annual porn film festival. Andrew talks about how he really wants to make a great piece of art through porn and do something very different than has never been done before. Through this the idea of two straight guys having sex with each other on camera comes up where Ben jumps at the opportunity to be involved. Ben and Andrew book a hotel room for the next night and promise that they are going to have sex together on tape for the sake of artistic filmmaking. The next day Andrew tries to level with Ben by telling him that he knows that they were drunk and he doesn’t expect him to go through with this. It becomes about trying to prove who is the bigger man by not backing out. Ben actually feels like he really needs to do this for himself though. He tries explaining this to Anna, but it doesn’t go over so well. She fears that her husband might be gay and incapable of being part of the family that they have planned together.
The performances in the film were outstanding and clearly there was so much more behind them then just the delivery. The actors are very much responsible with the film that we are given in the end. Mark Duplass really does well as Ben who is constantly going back and forth between his single persona and his happily married persona. We see different people through these transitions and when the more wild side comes out it is very funny and unexpected. Josh Leonard was hilarious as Andrew, who really brought the comedy to the full height. He is the more spontaneous and crazy of the two, but he had a certain subtly to this, coming off as natural rather than over the top. What is really the most entertaining about Humpday is how Duplass and Leonard work together. There is already a certain homosexual connection between how attached these two hetero-sexual males are. The buddy relationship is strengthened by the almost overly loving bond that the two have. There is a certain tension in this that usually is broken through laughter, which is heightened all the more when the two are actually in the hotel room later on in the film.
I didn’t know that the actors improvised their own material until after I saw the film. While I was watching it what really caught my attention the most was just how extremely naturalistic the characters and the dialogue between them seemed. It seemed like I had known them since they projected this immense feeling of familiarity. They certainly captured my belief that these were very real characters. It was almost like we were just witnessing a part of these people’s lives rather than watching a movie. The pauses were great as it made the language seem more realistic, also adding to the question of where this movie was going to go. When they were shooting there wasn’t even an outcome that they had to get to. It was up to them, whatever felt real in the world of these characters, whatever outcome they would naturally come to if they did exist is what would conclude our film. That really made every moment building up to the end seem very genuine. The last scene where they are in the hotel is among one of the funniest, especially through their verbal and body language. Humpday is funny, engaging, and extremely realistic. It’s an experimentation in improvisation that succeeded in such a naturalistic but interesting, loving bond between two straight best friends.