July 10, 2009
On the Big Board
||This is obviously an amateur film, but it's not amateurish. Adlibbed dialogue usually bothers me but Humpday reminded me of college dorm discussions. Don't let the subject keep you from seeing it.
As often happens when you’re out drunk with your so-called friends, you sometimes end up pushing each other into doing stupid sexual dares. These days, with everyone having mobile phones that take pictures, it isn’t long before that dare is posted online for the whole world to see, followed by a call from your parents asking what on earth you’re doing to the dog.
South Park’s Terrence once said to Phillip, “This is worse than the time when I fell asleep and you put your dick in my mouth and took a picture.” Humpday falls into this unique scenario.
Late one night Andrew (Joshua Leonard) unexpectedly shows up to see Ben (Mark Duplass), having not seen him for a decade. Both are old college friends and Andrew attempts to save Ben from domestication by inviting him to a party at a sex-positive commune. Turns out that everyone at the party is planning on making erotic art films for the local amateur porn festival! Andrew wants in; however, he and Ben are low on booze and have little in the way of ideas, except for one: Andrew should have sex with Ben, on camera. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, apart from the fact that both Andrew and Ben are heterosexual and Ben's wife Anna (Alycia Delmore) might not be too pleased. The following day they find themselves unable to back down from the dare.
Directed by and starring Lynn Shelton, she has directed two feature films previously - We Go Way Back and My Effortless Brilliance. Both played the festivals but didn’t really extend from there.
With a small cast of people you’ve never heard of before, the most well known name is Joshua Leonard from The Blair Witch Project. His experience on making that film has come in handy here, since Humpday was shot without a script. Shelton gave the actors a loose plot to stick to, but creative freedom over the dialogue, something she experimented with in her previous film My Effortless Brilliance.
After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 there was quite a bidding war (always a good sign), eventually being picked up by Magnolia Pictures. However the distributor's intention is to release the film on video-on-demand towards the end of the summer, with a theatrical release a month later. But will it find an audience?
In terms of controversial comedy dramas with a sexual theme, the only other films that come to mind are Secretary and Happiness (and maybe Showgirls), which had limited releases, but became cult hits, especially on DVD. If one of those are in your collection then Humpday might be for you. For groups of college friends needing inspiration on how to score an A+ for their art project, it’s a priority. (Shalimar Sahota/BOP)