July 24, 2009

MOVIES: Humpday (Lynn Shelton, 2009)

Ben and Andrew (Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard) are old college pals who haven't seen one another for a few years when Andrew unexpectedly in town. The two are at a party, having had a bit too much to drink, when the subject of the upcoming amateur porn festival comes up. The guys decide that they should enter a film of themselves having sex; since they're both straight, the movie will be "beyond gay," and therefore an inherently profound artistic statement.

From this point on, Humpday becomes a game of emotional chicken. Neither Ben nor Andrew wants to be the one to back out of their project. Neither one can quite articulate why it seems so important, but it does seem to appeal to some vague, inchoate need for intimacy in both men.

There's an interesting story here, but unfortunately, the movie itself is mostly a mess. The acting isn't very good (Alycia Delmore comes off as Ben's wife, Anna); the shaky camerawork is hard to watch; even the music score is unattractive.

But the climactic scene, in which Ben and Andrew meet in a hotel room with a video camera, is remarkable. There's an intensity and emotional force that has been utterly missing from the rest of the movie, and genuine tension as they try to figure out what it means if they do (or don't) go through with their plan.

So there's the cinematic dilemma: Does one spectacular scene redeem an otherwise mediocre movie? Unless you have particular interest in the subject matter or the actors, I'd say no, at least not to the extent that you should pay full price to see it at the theater. Wait for the DVD instead.

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