The third high-profile sale at Sundance — and perhaps the most foregone conclusion in town — occurred late Monday when Magnolia Pictures picked up the bromance-gone-batshit Humpday.
Writer-director Lynn Shelton's tiny-budget dramedy had received generally glowing praise since its premiere last Friday; audiences warmed almost instantly to the story of old friends Ben (Mark Duplass) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard), the latter of whom shows up at the former's Seattle doorstep unannounced late one night. Andrew's rootless boho existence chafes against Ben's own buttoned-down, married domestic bliss, but each collides one debauched evening when they drunkenly plot a joint submission to a local amateur porn contest: They will have sex on camera. With each other.
"It's beyond gay," Ben asserts, in the sophistic spirit that reconnects him to Andrew and undermines his marriage to his beloved wife Anna (Alycia Delmore). The ensuing discussions and debate (Humpday may be the chattiest Sundance entry this side of Tyson) offer a genuinely funny dissertation on modern love between men in various states of arrested development — as well as the women who love them. But its candid chemistry pierces more, led by Duplass and Leonard's awkward one-upsmanship as their videotaped D-day draws near.
"From about minute one-and-a-half after we met each other, I kind of sensed we were going to be good friends," Duplass told the fest audience attending Saturday morning's screening. "But we both have a little bit of type-A combative energy, and we like to hear ourselves talk a lot. I knew that if we somehow got ourselves in the wrong situation we could be good budies who were beating the living shit out of each other. I'd also seen some pictures of him on the Internet, and he looked kind of cute, so I thought, 'Hey, maybe he can come do this movie.'"
"That was such a thorough answer," followed Leonard, explaining his own participation in the project. "I got pitched the idea of potentially having sex with Mark, and jumped at it. With both feet. ... Mark e-mailed me and said, 'Do you want to do this movie playing my buddy?' I said, 'If the schedule works out, absolutely.' To which he responded, 'Great, it's a movie about two straight guys who try to make a gay porn.' To which I responded with 'Um...' With, I think, multiple ellipses." Like Shelton and, this morning, her investors, we're glad he came around.