Full disclosure: I wanted to dislike Humpday. I really did. It’s about two straight men who decide to make a gay porn film together, and I remember seeing previews and thinking, “Ugh, that’s gonna be really homophobic under the guise of being indie and counter-cultural.” The Netflix description didn’t reassure me, talking about “sex communes” and elevating dares. (I can’t actually find this description on netflix.com, but it was the one that showed up on the ‘Watch It Now’ streaming menu.)
I was pleasantly surprised to be (mostly) wrong.
The movie is about a married couple, Ben and Anna, whose life is interrupted by Andrew, a college friend of Ben’s who drops in unannounced after not having seen him for many years. Andrew encourages Ben to come out with him and, while at a party, Ben and Andrew learn about an amateur porn festival some of the other party-goers hold every year. They complain that all the good porn ideas must have been taken by now, until they (drunkenly) stumble upon the possibility of two straight men engaging in gay porn. Of course, they both agree to go ahead with it.
The first thing that surprised me about Humpday was the cinematography. It’s shot in a somewhat ‘home movie’ style, with relatively close zooms and a willingness to have oddly-framed shots. The film quality isn’t a home movie, but the general shooting and editing style gives that impression. Coupled with that, I thought the dialogue was pretty realistic, particularly between Ben and his wife, Anna. She was really unhappy about A) Andrew showing up at 1AM and B) her husband agreeing to shoot porn with Andrew, but her unhappiness was presented as being legitimate and not merely shrew-ish. Humpday doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but it also doesn’t cast the wife as an emasculating bitch playing against the beleaguered husband/hero.
The “sex commune” from the Netflix description was also a pleasant surprise. It was actually a house (possibly a co-op) with a lot of people who were either in open relationships, somehow polyamorous, or just generally sexual. I was surprised, however, because they weren’t presented as freakish or immoral. Ben was definitely uncomfortable (at least, until he got drunk) but it was because he was outside his comfort zone, not because his hosts were shown as particularly outlandish. I found the scene where Andrew goes to sleep with two women at the party hilarious, because they have dildos in their bed and he freaks out about it. One of them replies, “Why should we get rid of one of our penises just because there’s a new one in the bed?” Amazing. (He ends up leaving, to which they kind of shrug.)
But what about the ‘gay porn’?
Here, too, the movie continues its trend of realistic – and funny – dialogue, with neither of the two men willing to back down or wimp out. When Ben and Andrew finally arrive at the hotel, they decide to just “do it,” but…
Andrew: That’s the tricky thing. It’s the difference between this and bungee jumping, is that bungee jumping, you just walk to the edge and jump…
Ben: …and the whole thing takes care of you…
Andrew: …and you don’t have to have a hard-on to bungee jump.
I won’t ruin whether or not they go through with it, though.
So what didn’t I like about this movie? Well, I wanted someone to say, “Hey! Putzes! You know enjoying anal penetration doesn’t make you gay, right?” As much as this movie ultimately wasn’t about homosexuality, it did further the idea that A) being penetrated is an inherently bad thing for men, B) “real men” can’t like being penetrated, and C) that two men being sexual is icky.
For all that, I do think the movie is worth watching. The interactions between the characters are honest, and it (mostly) doesn’t resort to cheap laughs. But definitely don’t watch it expecting some amazing deconstruction of heterosexuality and homophobia. Cuz this movie aint it.