I can't hold my tongue any longer. Humpday is no more a bromance than writer/director Lynn Shelton is "the female Apatow." The term bromance is lazy shorthand for the loveably dorky and confused guys populating the Apatow et al movies, and while Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard) could be described as such, the writing of Shelton elevates what could be a one-trick pony -- two straight dudes might have sex or might not for "art" -- into a real discussion of identity, both of Ben and Andrew and of those around them. It becomes a discussion of sexuality -- what's straight, what's not, what threatens Andrew and what interests and confuses Ben -- and identity and how we want to perceive ourselves.

In an Apatow-ish film, if a protagonist was about to have a threesome with two women (one of which is played by Shelton) and suddenly gets cold feet when one pulls out sex toys, it would be played for laughs -- add in a fart joke or dildo joke and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Whew, wouldn't that have been crazy! Instead, there's a supremely awkward and human moment when Andrew weighs the pros and cons of the situation, extricates himself, puts on his clothes, and leaves. The women turn to each other laughing, shutting him out from their intimacy as much as he's shut himself off by flitting across the world as an artist.

The sexual subculture that we get a glimpse of in one of the earlier scenes at Monica and Lily's house is what is really at the heart of Humpday -- Andrew can walk the walk, but can he talk the talk? And is Ben more than a married man trying to time sex with his wife Anna (Alycia Delmore) so they can conceive? Is it important to push our boundaries just because they're there? These are universal questions, and one that are especially called to light when faced with the chance to explore what we might desire or what scares us, two things that often go hand in hand.

I can absolutely appreciate the problems of marketing a movie like this and why it's easier to just call it a bromance in ad copy, but it's so much more than that. It's funny, human, tender, and loving, and instead of painting these characters in broad Hollywood strokes (so to speak), it literally zooms in on them as they awkwardly hash out the layers of identity -- who they are, were, thought they were, and would like to be.

Why does Lynn Shelton have to be one of the guys, as the New York Times referred to her, to write insightfully about them?

categories Cinematical