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HUMPDAY (director/writer: Lynn Shelton; cinematographer: Benjamin Kasulke; editor: Nat Sanders; music: Vince Smith; cast: Mark Duplass (Ben), Alycia Delmore (Anna), Joshua Leonard (Andrew), Lynn Shelton (Monica), Trina Willard (Lily); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Lynn Shelton; Magnolia Pictures; 2009)
“It says very little about anything though promising to say much.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Lynn Shelton (“My Effortless Brilliance”) is the writer-director and one of the performers in this sensationalist comedy that was done on a shoestring budget.

Seemingly straight-laced, chubby and nerdy Ben (Mark Duplass), a transportation engineer, recently married the supportive Anna (Alycia Delmore), and the Seattle young couple live in a house and are hoping to start a family. At one thirty in the morning, Ben’s bearded wild college buddy, Andrew (Joshua Leonard), an idler and world-traveler he has not kept up with over the years except through an occasional postcard, unexpectedly arrives from Mexico and after mucho awkward backslapping crashes there for the night. The next day Andrew invites Ben to meet his new artist friends in a place where the front door says “Dionysus,” which is the home of a libertine bisexual named Monica (Lynn Shelton) who Andrew just met at a coffee shop. Ben comes over to invite Andrew home for a homemade pork-chop dinner from Anna and to catch up on his friend’s life, but when Andrew would rather stay for the night house party Ben calls wifey to say he’ll be home after some face time with Andrew’s bohemian pals. But he gets tipsy over wine and weed and stays there till 3 am, which turns wifey into a rage the next morning. Ben also agrees to make a gay porn film with Andrew, for the local amateur porn art festival, with the two straight friends having sex. Their tagline is that “It’s not gay; it’s beyond gay. It’s not porn; it’s art.” The square Ben wants to prove to Andrew that he’s still a free-spirit and capable of living out his youthful beat aspirations. When Anna finds out about the outlandish film project, she freaks out.

Shelton seems to be trying to get at what makes for close male buddy relationships, bromances, and uses the pretext that maybe there is something homoerotic hidden there in a homophobic culture. She probes at the male characters’ macho pretensions to contemplate the inner workings of her men subjects, as things move to the climactic movie date and the men are set to perform even though they have no attraction for each other but a bold willingness to do anything for a lark.

It turns as a Judd Apatow type of film he wouldn’t make because it has such little commercial appeal. Though Shelton has good intentions, the premise is totally moronic and the tidy limp ending can’t remove the mess it made. Its challenge is whether the affable boys will go through with their lark, but it says very little about anything though promising to say much. All it had going for it was good performances by the male leads.

REVIEWED ON 10/24/2009 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”