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Humpday

Year: 2009
Production Co: Magnolia Pictures
Director: Lynn Shelton
Writer: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore

This richly realistic, slowly engrossing film has a priceless irony. Two modern young heterosexual men are egging each on (in classic dick-measuring language) to an amazing act of bravado in order to save face in front of each other, daring each other to 'pussy out' and therefore be the less masculine.

The irony is that they're not daring each other to bungee jump or sky dive, but have sex with each other. They're prepared to engage in a homosexual act to prove their heterosexual masculinity, and watching Ben (Duplass) and Andrew's (Leonard) agonisingly awkward exchange when they're about to consummate the act is hysterical.

They've arrived there after Andrew, a long lost college friend of Ben's, has arrived on Ben and his cute, smart wife Anna's doorstep in the middle of the night, years since Ben saw him last.

When Andrew falls in with a group of hedonist artists (the sort of crowd I suspect writer/director Shelton might belong to - partly because she plays one of them, partly because the premise of the film seems to me like it would have come from that mindset), Ben accompanies him to their soiree and they get talking about Humpfest, an art project where the public submit amateur porn films of themselves. Drunk and stoned, Ben tells Andrew they should do it, and a few days later in the bright light of day, neither want to 'pussy out' and lose face.

The conversation where Andrew's giving Ben his out is brilliant because, as Ben is telling Andrew, he shouldn't judge the white picket fence and marriage. The film as a whole says a lot about 'types' of people and the assumptions they have about each other.

The naturalistic acting and dialogue alone is a treat we don't see done well often enough in films. It completes the picture and makes it as much a document of modern male interaction as it is a laugh out loud comedy. It would be a completely different movie under the aegis of the Hollywood system, and Shelton draws out a subtlety a big studio would fumble completely.

If there's one criticism, it's that there are too many 'likes', 'dudes' and 'totallys', but if you want to be literal that's the way a lot of thirty and fortysomething American men talk today

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