Even though sex comedies are a dime a dozen, “Humpday” is more mature than most of the ones that turn up in theaters. That probably means it won’t score big with teenage ticket buyers, but they’re not the target demographic anyway – this movie has a more adult audience in mind, namely people old enough for marriage but young enough that they still have time to plan a future together. It isn’t easy to pull off a sex comedy when you’re dealing with characters in a committed relationship, which makes a film like this seem kind of like a miracle.
Maybe the real miracle is that the characters are treated like people instead of cartoons who have to embarrass themselves for a cheap laugh. There’s nothing wrong with comedies that look down on their characters, but because they’re treated like pawns in a grander scheme, it’s understood that we’re not supposed to relate to them. “Humpday” works because of the humanity of its characters, and because it’s sympathetic to their desires and fears. This is a movie where people have minds of their own – they’re not interested in acting stupid to get a few laughs.
Ben (Mark Duplass) has a good life in Seattle with his wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore), who has her heart set on having children and raising a family. They get an unexpected visit one night from Andrew (Joshua Leonard), an old friend of Ben’s who lost touch with him after college. Ben and Anna invite him to stay for a few days, and Ben seems eager to catch up on old times with Andrew. Even though Anna isn’t sure what to make of him, she tries to give Andrew a warm welcome for Ben’s sake.
In spite of his loony playfulness, Andrew’s a likeable guy – he even makes new friends the day after he arrives, and he invites Ben to come to their place for a party. After they drink beer, play music and make each other laugh, they hear about a film festival devoted to amateur porn. They make jokes about filming a gay porno together, but when they double dare each other to go ahead with it, the idea of making one becomes hard to dismiss. That both guys are straight makes it even more complicated, but there’s a bigger problem still: How will they break it to Anna?
It’s easy to understand why Duplass and Leonard get the biggest laughs – even when the film is at its most thoughtful and quiet, they seem like kids talking about sex with great wonder and worry.
Delmore’s performance, though, gives the film another layer, one that provides the maturity that it needs to work. Instead of merely playing it straight while everyone else goofs around, she brings a reality to the film that makes it believable. A lesser film wouldn’t have given her much attention, but “Humpday” dares to go where most sex comedies don’t. Sometimes a little dare can go further than you think.