"Humpday" *** (94 minutes)

Tuesday July 28, 2009

One of the more interesting aspects of this indie gem is that it was made with the sensibilities of a woman. Writer/director Lynn Shelton came up with the idea when she heard of a peculiar "film festival" held each year in Seattle called Humpfest. Entries consist of amateur films that depict sexual activity but any scenes showing penetration will result in disqualification.

Lynn has used this event to put an interesting new take on a male buddy/bonding theme explored to no end in countless films. Shelton has changed the rules in her film and made Humpfest a, er, penetrating-allowed film festival. The premise: What if two, 100% heterosexual males decide to compete and take it to the nth degree? What if they film themselves having sex? As one of them put it: "That's beyond gay!"

The 2 guys are Mark Duplass & Joshua Leonard. Mark is becoming one of my favorite indie personalities. He wrote and starred in "The Puffy Chair" (directed by his brother Jay) which was one of my favorite films at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For an encore, he directed, wrote, and produced another fine indie film, "Baghead" which I screened at the 2008 Maryland Film Festival. Here Mark dons only his actor's hat playing Ben, a happily married dude who is paid an unexpected visit by his old school buddy, Andrew. Andrew has showed up after years of traversing the planet, still single and carefree.

When both go off one night to attend a wild party, they proceed to get smashed on whatever is being passed around. Then, when they hear about Humpfest, their male competitive spirit is aroused when one of them gets the wild idea that no way could a film showing 2 heterosexuals having gay sex lose.

Having fully committed their egos to the project, they must now conceal it from Ben's wife, Anna, wonderfully played by newcomer Alycia Delmore. How she finds out is classic and her reaction to the project is priceless and understandable considering that a woman's perspective is behind the words!

The last act deals with the 2 boys attempting to make their film and it is fascinating how it all plays out, no pun intended. This scene is unscripted and wonderfully portrayed by the 2 friends; and it is thought-provoking about how our society looks at friendship, sexuality, and homophobia-especially when it comes to male sex.

The film is in limited release and it will probably go the way of most indie films: direct to disc. So, look for it, as well as "The Puffy Chair" & "Baghead", at NETFLIX or at your nearest video/DVD outlet.

Mark Duplass, Alycia Delmore, & Joshua Leonard

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