By Don Simpson | May 27, 2009
Director: Lynn Shelton
Writer(s): Lynn Shelton
Starring: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton, Trina Willard
Let’s play a game!
First, imagine a film titled Humpday directed by Chuck Levine, starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James.
Next, imagine a film titled Humpday directed by Judd Apatow, starring Seth Rogen and Paul Judd.
OK, now imagine the above-mentioned films with the following plot: two male friends reunite after not seeing each other for an extended period of time. One friend is married and settled down in a “white picket fence” lifestyle; the other friend is a freewheeling nomad pulled straight from the pages of Kerouac. During a drunken and drugged-out binge, the two friends decide that they are going to make a porn film together in which two straight guys (played by the two friends) have sex.
You can pretty much image how both of those films would turn out, right? They would be funny, sure. If the Chuck Levine film is anything like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, it would probably be offensive and politically incorrect (I have a feeling Judd Apatow might approach the subject with a little more finesse). But, my point is, that you would know almost exactly what to expect. And, in both cases, I bet laughs would take precedence over message.
Now imagine the same film by Lynn Shelton starring Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard.
Most of you are probably asking…”Who?” OK. Have you ever heard the term mumblecore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mumblecore)? Let’s just say that right alongside Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski, Shelton and Duplass (along with his brother Jay) are stalwarts of that especially low-fi, independent, cinematic movement that SXSW loves ever so much (Shelton directed the SXSW 2008 standout My Effortless Brilliance; Duplass directed SXSW 2008 standout Baghead, starred in SXSW 2007 standout Hannah Takes the Stairs, and produced/wrote/acted in SXSW 2005 standout The Puffy Chair). And, I admit, I share in SXSW’s admiration of mumblecore…
But, I digress…Shelton’s handling of the material is masterful. It is mature and emotionally riveting, it is also incredibly and undeniably real (real is something you would probably never label a Levine or Apatow production). As with the rest of the mumblecore oeuvre, don’t expect any bells and whistles; Humpday is what I like to call “an actor’s film” – with strong performances, and not much else. Best of all (at least in my humble opinion), nothing is done solely for laughs yet Humpday is an incredibly funny film nonetheless.