Reviews

Humpday

In Humpday, Andrew can't help but compete with Anna, who has stolen his bro, or more precisely, his slowly receding notion of himself.


Humpday

Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Mark Duplass, Alycia Delmore, Joshua Leonard, Lynn Shelton
Rated: R
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Year: 2009
US date: 2009-07-10 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer
The way I like to think of myself and the way I actually am are more different than I'd like them to be.

-- Ben Mark Duplass)

"You're awesome." Indeed, Anna (Alycia Delmore) is quite awesome. Funny, smart, and a good cook, she's also in tune with her husband Ben's (Mark Duplass) moods and needs. When, during the first few minutes of Humpday, they nuzzle and begin to pet one another in bad, she confesses, "I'm so tired," he is flat-out grateful. "I was hoping you were going to say that," he laughs. "I'm tired too." And with that, they roll apart, so cute and happy and confident that they understand one another utterly.

Until... mere hours later, Andrew (Joshua Leonard) comes knocking at the front door. Returned less than triumphantly from a sojourn in Mexico, Andrew's impressed that his old college buddy Ben is now living the adult life -- complete with house, car, coffee table books, and wife. The last of these possessions watches the boys hug and punch, mentions something about work the next day, and heads back upstairs. Ben, briefly sheepish, tries to explain Andrew to his wife, you know, the awesome one: "He just does this!"

Thus begins the bromance of Humpday. As usual, the relationship leaves out the girl who is nonetheless on hand to instantiate the boys' heterosexuality. Patient as such women usually are, Anna waits for her man to get a grip, even as she also tries to connect with this blast from his past, or at least to appreciate what makes Andrew so compelling. Alternately childish and coarse, he makes himself at home in her home, distracts her husband, and disrupts her schedule. Still, she invites the interloper over for pork chops, then forgives Ben when the dinner goes cold because the guys are partying at a house called "Dionysus." "You could come here and dionyze," Ben offers on the phone in the bathroom, hoping Anna won't come. Here, bisexual Monica (played by director Lynn Shelton) and her girlfriend Lily (Trina Willard) display what might be an enviable openness to sexual adventure. "She likes her boy time," Lily explains. Ben looks awed.

It's at this party -- with occasional cuts back to Anna with her pork on a plate -- that Ben and Andrew come up with the project that will drive the plot, namely, an entry for a Seattle amateur porn festival. Determined that their film must be "unique," they plan to star in it themselves. It'll be "dude on dude action," but not gay, "just two straight dudes straight balling. It could be, Monica suggests, "beyond gay."

It seems like a stoned-late-at-night dare made to be forgotten, but the next morning, when Anna reminds Ben that he missed their ovulating window the night before ("I really don't want to talk to you right now"), he revisits the idea. Persistently unable to say why, he wants to make the film. Perhaps he wants to recover his youth or return to a state of imaginary Andrewness; for his part, Andrew can't help but compete with Anna, who has stolen his bro, or more precisely, his slowly receding notion of himself.

Ben is apparently more concerned to sort out this "post-last-night residual weirdness" than the equal weirdness with Anna -- or maybe he just feels more capable of sorting it out. Both weirdnesses involve deception, but the one with his wife is bound to be undone (she can, in a word, read him pretty easily) while the one with Andrew can extend the lies pretty much endlessly. He and Andrew resolve to treat their hangovers with a hoops contest. Their court is limited to Ben's very short driveway, setting their game right up against the street where kids on bikes gawk in disbelief when they don't stop at missing baskets, but go on to wrestle one another on the pavement. Huffing and puffing, their shorts and t-shirts bunched up around their pudgy limbs, they contemplate their near future: will they go through with the "art project" they've sworn they want to do, or will they back off, once again not completing something they said they would?

In case you're counting, Humpday -- part sitcom and part Judd Apatow -- is mumblecorish in its attention to scruffily fascinating detail and handheld-improvvy aesthetic. It is also sharp and often funny, at least until it seems essentially written into a corner, much as the boys position themselves. They struggle to define themselves -- apart from Anna and in relation to one another, yet also as grownup versions of the selves they know best. "You're not as Kerouac as you think you are," Ben apprises his friend. "And I'm not so picket fence as you think I am."

As silly as they are consequential, these models of masculinity hardly describe either friend. And yet both worry they aren't who they want to be, and worse, that they don't even know who that might be. When Andrew looks for affirmation from Monica and Trina, he's undone by his own expectations; when Ben turns to Anna, he's startled to learn that his shifting desires are not the only surprises in their marriage. Their searches for self-reflections in one another are just as confusing. You might feel like you walk away with more comprehension than they do. But then, you might also be fooling yourself.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.