- RatedR21 /GenreComedy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
It's been a good 12 years since Ben Affleck brought up the unlikely possibility of having sex with his best male friend (played by Jason Lee) in the Kevin Smith comedy, Chasing Amy. If that one brief moment made for uncomfortable viewing, then Humpday dares you to put aside your inhibitions, suck it up, and witness what such a proposal can do to a friendship between two straight men.
Despite its provocative promotional poster, of actors Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard standing next to each other topless, looking like they're sizing each other up, this indie-spirited film written and directed by Lynn Shelton is actually more thoughtful than it first lets on.
Sure, the key premise is milked for comedy-why not? Ben (Duplass) and Andrew (Leonard) are old friends who have lost touch, with the former leading a comfortable married life before the latter's sudden appearance. At a party, the pair drunkenly make a dubious double-dare bet, that they would have sex with each other in the interest of an "art project", in conjunction with the upcoming amateur-pornographic Hump Fest.
But behind the awkward jokes, and priceless moments such as when Ben's wife first discovers the bet, is a clever examination of the male psyche and a deconstruction of a guy-and-guy friendship that had gone sour after too much had been left unsaid, for too long.
A lot is revealed when the friends do talk after their belated reunion-and they talk a lot. A point of similarity is how each is struggling with his identity and where life has brought him. Ben is happily married, but he takes issue with Andrew's assessment that he is much too straight-laced to even consider making a porn film. Meanwhile, Andrew realises that he has always played the role of a n'er do well, because he'd gotten accustomed to lowered expectations and unfinished business.
Shelton's film will undoubtedly fly over the heads of some audiences, especially those unable to glean the finer points of communication. But those who take time for it, and are able to overcome the rather daunting prospect of watching two men progressing inexorably towards an intimate night together, will be rewarded handsomely.
The final third of the film bear the most impressive rewards. Even if the viewer does not like the lead characters-and this reviewer certainly falls into that camp-he should at least appreciate the observations and insights presented in the extended closing sequence, which takes place in a nondescript hotel room.
There are accusations and apologies, justifications and cop-outs, disappointments and acceptance-the mix of emotions that are churned up are conflicting but certainly authentic.
Clearly the film's biggest obstacle to gaining an audience receptive to its pearls of wisdom is the very premise that may turn people off. But look beneath the surface, be confident in this able cast and filmmaker's ability to offer valid perspectives, and you may be glad you took the plunge on a film about taking a life-changing leap of faith.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III (1990).