I approached the content of Seattle writer/director Lynn Shelton‘s Humpday with some trepidation – in America pretty much the worst thing you can say (or even imply) about a straight man is that he may have some sexual interest in another man. You can see this in evidence in everything from homophobic stand-up comedy to sports trash-talking to films about straight men posing as gays to gain some special right or privilege (or the girl). What I did not want to see was yet another gay-bashing disguised as comedy. I was delighted to find the subject treated in an honest, sensitive and thoughtful manner in the knowing and funny film Humpday.
Dealing with issues of identity and choices beyond sex and sexuality, Humpday chronicles the reunion of college buddies Ben and Andrew. One has taken a more conventional path including marriage, a house and talk of having children. The other has followed the path of the Beat generation artists and poets, traveling around the world with no particular goal in mind but the trip itself. Their assumptions about one another are challenged as are their doubts about themselves and the choices they have made.
Shelton’s script is beautifully crafted and realized. Knowing a bit about the film from reviews and word-of-mouth, I wondered through the first half hour or so how she was going to pull this off. Natural, believable characters unfold as their relationships bend and twist and evolve, revealing surprising truths about love and friendship and sex. Strong performances from the cast, including Shelton’s own luminous supporting role as free-spirited Monica, demonstrate the director’s skillful, subtle touch. Alycia Delmore‘s turn as Anna, the patient wife struggling to understand her husband and herself and what it means to be married, brings a focus and clarity that is clever and satisfying. Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard ultimately carry the day though, delivering what feels like a single seamless performance in their critical scenes together. Their chemistry is just right, as is this enjoyable AND intelligent film.
Humpday is available on Netflix.