Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly attributed a quotation. It was actor Joshua Leonard, not director Lynn Shelton, who said, "We didn't know the term 'bromance' was about to be co-opted into some form of media frenzy."

Isn't It Bromantic? How Culture Arrived at 'Humpday'

Mark Duplass, left, and Joshua Leonard portray "Humpday's" straight pals who find themselves in gay territory.
Mark Duplass, left, and Joshua Leonard portray "Humpday's" straight pals who find themselves in gay territory. (Magnolia Pictures Via Associated Press)
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Raise your hand if you're tired of the term "bromance." Really? Everyone?

Okay, put your hands down. Now, who wants to see a movie about two straight dudes who pledge to make a gay porno together? Don't be shy. There's one. Two. Oh, a few more.

Don't be ashamed. We've been working our way toward this.

The bromance movies of the past five years refined a hetero-enlightened way of toying with gayness and sexual fluidity while still prizing masculinity. Now arrives "Humpday," a micro-budget indie movie about two schlubs who plan to film themselves having sex because (get this) it would make great art. The premise nudges the American male past innuendo and into a hotel room with a video camera and his equally straight buddy-for-life.

"It's beyond gay," says one attendee at the boozy party where the idea presents itself in "Humpday," which opens Friday in Washington.

It's "an incredible way to express your love for your longtime friend," says another.

It's also a perfect, timely premise for a small-time director who wouldn't mind a crossover hit. This director is Lynn Shelton, who lives in Seattle and has previously made two tiny movies that eschewed pesky cliches like narrative and climax. Her last film, "My Effortless Brilliance," was about two straight guys who essentially break up and then get back together. "Humpday" is similar, save for the whole gay porn thing.

That twist must've seemed like gold.

"Oh, totally," says Shelton, 43. "I will completely confess that . . . . I thought, 'Finally I have this idea that's a sexy hook.' And if nothing else there will be people who come to just see what the hell happens.'"

Indie actors Mark Duplass (of "The Puffy Chair") and Joshua Leonard (known mainly for tearing through the woods in "The Blair Witch Project") play Ben and Andrew, two friends who reunite in Seattle after several life-changing years apart. Ben is married and owns a house. Andrew is still a bushy-bearded Kerouac wannabe. At first, it's a classic setup. Ben is self-conscious about appearing too white-picket-fence-ish and Andrew overplays his roguishness to compensate for a lack of accomplishments.

Ben joins Andrew for a party that involves booze, pot and swingers. Someone brings up Hump!, the amateur porn festival sponsored by the Stranger, the Seattle alt-weekly. Andrew wants to submit a video, Ben scoffs, and Andrew suggests that they collaborate. After a series of macho one-upmanships, the pair vows to engage in homosexual intercourse for the sake of art, and to prove that, even as they settle into adulthood, they can do something that frightens them.

"My way into the movie was this relationship that straight men have to gayness," says Shelton. "When you say 'homophobic' you think, 'Oh, someone who hates gay people.' This is a different kind of homophobia. This is the actual, literal sense of the word. It makes the passionate straight-male platonic relationship really poignant because as soon as you try to say 'I love you' to your straight male friend, it's 'What the hell does that mean?' "

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