The poster features two guys in nothing but boxers looking at one another. Then you have the synopsis, which says that the film is about two straight guys who decide to make a porn movie that shows them having sex with each other. Finally, there's the title: HUMPDAY. These three things will easily give people the impression that this movie is going to be your run-of-the-mill, crass, gag-infested buddy comedy, perhaps a raunchier, more homoerotic version of I LOVE YOU MAN and the HAROLD & KUMAR franchise. What the poster, synopsis and title don't prepare you for is the enormous amount of insight on identity and insecurity that there is to be found here. You wouldn't expect this from a movie about two guys who are going to make a porn, but EVERYTHING that happens in this film and every line of dialogue is 100% authentic and natural. There's not a hint of falsity to be found here. HUMPDAY is an astoundingly observant piece of dramatic filmmaking... and yes, it's also often extremely funny. :)
Ben (Mark Duplass) is fulfilling every requirement of what we like to call a normal life. He's married to Anna (Alycia Delmore), and they seem to have a sweet and loving relationship. They live in a great house and are on their way to hopefully getting pregnant. One night, they're visited by Ben's old college friend, Andrew (Joshua Leonard), who just got back from Mexico and looks like your standard free-spirited hippie, with the full beard to make it even more obvious. Ben "steps out" of the conventionality of his married life for one night, and goes to a house party with Andrew, where they get drunk and high and decide to submit an entry to an art festival that focuses strictly on porn. Two straight dudes having sex on a porn is revolutionary, they say, and they both agree that "art should push boundaries." Shock of all shocks, the next day, when they're sober, they both still want to do it, though the reasons aren't quite clear. This marks the beginning of some amazingly well-executed dialogue-based scenes in which we gradually get to discover more and more about the insecurities of not only Ben and Andrew, but also of Ben's wife, Anna. These three characters are fleshed out 150% during the progression of the film's hour-and-a-half running time.
"You're not as Kerouac as you think you are, and I'm not as 'white picket fence' as you think I am," Ben tells Andrew. This is one of the many utterly perfect lines that are delivered in HUMPDAY. This film recognizes that NO character should have a one-dimensional personality, which is why it would've been a mistake to depict Ben as a 100% working-class hero and Andrew as a 100% left-wing bum. In doing this, it refuses to make a mistake that most movies make. Sure, the debate between the guys as to whether or not to go through with having sex on camera becomes the movie's "running joke," but that debate isn't carried out through mindless sessions of yelling or of saying things like "Dude, this is so gay, we can't do this!" The dialogue here is way more intelligent than that, and focuses on the characters' fears, not all of which have to do with sex. I won't spoil whether or not they go through with it, but I WILL say that you won't ever see male nudity or "dude-on-dude boning" in this movie. That's not what HUMPDAY is interested in, despite the title and poster.
Of course, for all the seriousness, there's still plenty of hilarity to be found here. Not much of it is of the "dirty sex joke" variety; most of it is just unabashed wit. When Ben tells Andrew that he and Anna have been trying to get pregnant, he says: "We removed the goalie and now we're just doing free kicks." It took me a while to stop laughing after that one. The film's relentlessly perfect mix of drama and comedy comes across during the series of events that lead to Anna's discovery of the plan that her husband and his buddy have come up with: from a delightfully awkward dinner conversation in which Ben is forced to put the brakes on and back away from what he was planning to tell her, to a drunken interaction between Andrew and Anna in which the truth comes out in a perfectly executed and performed scene.
When Ben says "the pistons firing in my body want to give you a guilt trip, but I can't say shit," aside from feeling elation towards the line's brilliance, I felt so sad that the fact that this film is so small will make it impossible for its screenplay to get Oscar consideration. With that said, there WAS something that became obvious to me while watching HUMPDAY and that I later confirmed online, and it's the fact that a lot of the dialogue was improvised. It just has that natural feel, combined with the occasional ums and uhs that make the conversations more genuine. Some may complain about that, but I don't see that sort of thing as a problem, as long as the actors' spontaneous lines are also intelligent, which is more than the case here.
For all the greatness that comes prior to it, the final act was what would either make or break this film. It lasts roughly half an hour (a third of the overall running time) and features Ben and Andrew finally meeting up in the hotel room where they hope to, um, carry out the deed. I didn't think the movie could get much better during this act; I'm so glad that I was wrong. HUMPDAY could've easily failed by taking the risk of having its final moments devolve into a set of "physical humor"-based gags similar in nature to what we saw during the hotel room scene in BORAT. Thankfully, this film is way above that, and what we get instead during this last act is a laugh-riot of over-analysis and paranoia, as our two characters ponder every logistic of what they're gonna do. **SPOILER WARNING** I'd like to address here what some people have said about the film "backing down" at the end. The movie doesn't back down. The ending is 100% realistic. The things that happen and the statements they make that lead to their decision not to do it all make perfect sense. Honestly, it would've been too hard to believe if they had gone through with it. **END SPOILERS**
The only cloud that I feel is hanging over HUMPDAY is one that is based more on my personal bias than on any flaw that the film may have. While I totally believe that two straight guys could make a plan like this while under the effects of drugs and alcohol, it's not particularly easy to believe that they'd still be on board with it once they got sober. Yes, this issue is addressed, and both guys explain their reasons (or rather, their uncertainty towards their reasons), and there's nothing about the dialogue or the performances that feeds my skepticism; it's just an implausible situation, in my mind. Implausible or not, though, there's no doubt that it makes for a thoroughly involving movie-watching experience. HUMPDAY is both a wise and witty piece of dramatic/comedic filmmaking.