Reviewed by: George Williamson

Low-budget films shot with handheld cameras often end up being depressing grimy, woefully pretentious or a horrible combination of both. But sometimes an ensemble of near unknown actors are directed by a relative newcomer in an almost entirely implausible story and you end up with a film that is nothing short of comic brilliance.

The paths of old college roommates Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) have diverged almost completely – Ben is living, and apparently loving, the white-picket dream, married and trying for his first child. Andrew is still the nomadic student - travelling, adventuring, making art, with no consequences or constraints. When they meet Andrew can't quite believe his old buddy has settled down, and before long has dragged him to a bohemian Dionysian party; soon he's drunk and untethered from his spouse.

As the night rolls on, the discussion turns to the merits of the Humpfest – an amateur alternative porn festival – and, in an attempt to re-assert his free-spirited hipster credentials, Ben suggests that he and Andrew enter competition. Together. What starts as a late night joke quickly escalates; neither is willing to back down and be seen as less open-minded, and before long the room is booked and all that stands in their way is explaining to Ben's wife that they're about to consummate their friendship...

The synopsis of this film would suggest a crass Apatow bromance, full of bawdy jokes, casual homophobia and misogyny. Fortunately Humpday avoids this; it still manages to be very funny by taking a well-observed, highly cynical look at the male psyche and the competitive behaviour that sometimes appears when old buddies are reunited. Duplass and Leonard (reunited after the excellent The Puffy Chair) are so natural in their roles as estranged best friends as to be utterly convincing. Alycia Delmore is perfect as Anna, the concerned wife; she simultaneously radiates furious anger with her husband and a desperation not to make him feel trapped in banal suburban life. It's a complex role and a beautifully balanced performance.

Director Lynn Shelton has taken a bold step by allowing all of the film's dialogue to be improvised; this decision could have backfired horribly were the actors of a lesser calibre and the plot less entertaining, but the engaging story and terrific performances of all involved make it work. Arguments that the premise is contrived – which it is – could be raised, but it's absolutely worth suspending disbelief to see this film. And while the camerawork is handheld and sometimes slightly out of focus, this only adds to the feeling of voyeuristic realism. Altogether it's rather like watching a great Dogme movie, only this has the added bonus of actually being very funny too.

Humpday is a mumblecore masterpiece, and hopefully will gain the recognition and distrubution that it massively deserves.

Reviewed on: 29 Jun 2009
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Two old friends take male bonding a little too far.
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Director: Lynn Shelton

Writer: Lynn Shelton

Starring: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton, Trina Willard

Year: 2009

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Chuck And Buck
The Puffy Chair