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Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard are old college pals who reunite to make an amateur porn film in the comedy Humpday.

3 out of 4 stars



  • Written and directed by Lynn Shelton
  • Starring Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton and Trina Willard
  • Classification: 18A

'Humpday," the slang term working stiffs use for Wednesday, takes on a whole new meaning in Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton's third feature, a comedy in which two recently reunited college pals, both straight males, decide to make - and star - in an amateur gay porn film.

On the surface, the premise of Humpday - with its "end of gay" reverberations - certainly sounds more provocative than Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), which gets predictably cuddly toward the end. But the friends' erotic art film idea (just two "straight dudes" getting it on) evolves so naturally it never feels outrageous.

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What is hatched as a drunken notion at a bohemian party becomes a macho dare while shooting hoops as a hangover cure the morning after. Then, almost poignantly, it finally emerges as the possible fulfilment of the two friends' long-held yearnings (that are not, just to be clear, for the gentle touch of each other's flesh).

Humpday , like Shelton's previous work, is part of the American indie movement known as "mumblecore." Like other films in the genre, it's super-low budget, has a lo-fi aesthetic, an abundance of improvised chat and a focus on the personal relationships of recent college grads. It also stars one of the leading lights of the mumblecore fraternity: Mark Duplass, co-writer and co-director with brother Jay Duplass of The Puffy Chair (2005) and Baghead (2008).

Shelton (who also plays a small role in Humpday) knows what she wants from the performances, and Duplass is clearly comfortable working in someone else's domain. His character, the happily domesticated Ben, talks to and about his wife Anna (Alycia Delmore) with an affection that is sincere, if a tad rehearsed. Their relationship seems headed for baby-making, not a shakeup.

Then Andrew (Joshua Leonard), a college pal Ben hasn't seen in a decade, arrives in the middle of the night hoping to crash for a while. It's weird, but "good weird," suddenly seeing him again, says Ben.

Anna offers to make her "famous pork chops" the next evening, but that day Andrew meets a bisexual artist (Shelton), who invites him to a party. He urges Ben, who shows up to drive him home for dinner, to call and invite Anna and her pork chops. But on the phone, Ben's subconscious kicks in. He downplays the party, promising to split after spending some catch-up time with Andrew.

After a few drinks and some pot, though, Ben's not even thinking about home. And when he learns that everyone at the party, including Andrew, intends to make an erotic film to enter in the local Hump Fest (based on a real Seattle event) he doesn't miss a beat - he offers up the "beyond gay" porn idea. Now he just has to run it by his awesome, totally cool wife, who he is sure will be completely supportive.

For all its squirm-inducing promise - and the considerable buzz when it premiered earlier this year at Sundance - Humpday is mostly foreplay. But isn't that usually the most fun anyway? It certainly is in this film.

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Humpday could be called a bromance. But it is much sharper and more, er, adult, in its funny business than its recent comedy brethren - the slew of movies either written, directed or produced by Judd Apatow ( Talladega Nights , Superbad , Pineapple Express ) in which the "man crush" is a key theme, as well as this year's I Love You, Man , which overtly explores the pitfalls of a blossoming friendship between two straight guys.

For all their smarts and stars, these films are big studio movies and so inevitably drift into schmaltz. Humpday has no room for that, retaining its edge and focus right through the hilariously awkward and suspenseful extended final scene in a hotel bedroom. Sex, lies and videotape? Ha, I won't kiss and tell.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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