You surprise me. I admit that when I first heard the basics of your setup – two male best friends who have fallen out of touch decide to film themselves having sex with one another for a pornography competition – I was both intrigued and concerned. Intrigued because the glut of male-bonding films made it seem like it was only a matter of time before ‘bromance’ stopped being a jokingly affectionate term and finally morphed into an actual physical affair; concerned because with a standard plotting structure such as a contest and two men having to come to terms with their motives in performing the act, there was a lot of room for failure and sloppily handled personal moments.
This, then, is how you surprised me. Rather than fall into any of the traps I had envisioned, you managed to subvert just about every impulsive assumption I had made about you. Rather than playing yourself out as a farce, dependent on sexually uncomfortable situations and broad comedic strokes, you somehow managed to become an insightful tale about maturity, friendship, marriage and, of course, sexuality.
I think the aspects of you that impressed me the most were the conversations between your characters, especially given the context of your plot. A movie such as yourself would usually lend itself to crude double entendre, accidently overheard and misunderstood half-conversations, and comical confusion that could easily be dispelled by any one person saying one little thing. Most comedy movies allow for a degree of unbelievable construction in their dialogue for just this reason – the hilarity depends upon people not saying the one thing that any real person would. This is a covenant a viewer enters into with most comedies – unreality is permitted so long as the result is funny.
Instead, your characters talk like real people, openly contextualizing their statements with their feelings and experiences, allowing for a richer and more rewarding exchange. We are not just watching people say things that make us laugh, but viewing the moment at which a man must justify his love of matrimony to his bohemian friend, or his friend likewise coming to terms with his failures to live up to the bohemian ideals he has set for himself. Words aren’t just being spoken; frames of reference are being set up and internal paradigms are being shifted. This is growth in both character and relationship as expressed through conversation. And all of this fealty to human dialogue and expression isn’t a third-act revelation, but a continuing undercurrent throughout your entirety.
Best of all, these conversations are deeply, humanely and insightfully hilarious.
Tonally you also somehow manage to strike a reality that is refreshing. You exist in a world that is not a copy or a heightening of the one in which we live in, but a precise analogue. The comedic situations that occur in this filmic reality are the same that might occur in our own. Two friends getting drunk and stoned together and trading barbs, nursing hangovers, examining life choices; these are moments that occur in the real world and are funny because the people experiencing them are themselves full of humor and joy. You never feel the need to queue your audience in to your jokes, because as people who have been in society and among friends we can realize the inherent and sub-textual comedy in you and the situations you present.
You present dramatic situations experienced through a comedic lens, and this allows for a consistency of tone that never needs to devolve into the “message moment” that so many other comedies feel the need to telegraph with string music and heavy-handed emoting.
You surprise me, Humpday, but I am even more surprised that I should feel surprised in the first place. What does it say about the state of modern comedy when I have to congratulate a film on things so simple as organic chemistry, humanity, and fidelity to both life and character? Why am I surprised by deftness and truth that presents itself in a humorous way?
A comedy can be good if it makes you laugh. A comedy can be great if it makes you laugh and encourages repeated viewings. A comedy that can do all of this an make you want to experience it again both for the comedy and the purity and intelligence of its worldview? That is something special.
Brian J. Roan