Imagine, if you will, a post-apocalyptic earth. Thousands of years in the future. All that remains is a burned, charred wasteland.
A spaceship lands on the desert planet. A contingent of aliens spills out, most of them resembling the dreadlocked being with the bulging codpiece that John Travolta played in “Battlefield Earth.”
Searching for an intelligent planet rumored to be in this corner of the galaxy, they sift through the debris. After hours of this, they find an item that’s still intact.
It’s a DVD copy of the movie “Humpday.”
The alien leader — his name is YONG TRAVULGAR — slips the DVD into a body portal. His inner circuitry analyzes it at multispeed. “Written and directed by Lynn Shelton … Released August, 2009 … Audience favorite at Sundance … Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence.”
Intrigued, he pulls out the DVD, slaps it into a futuristic player and projects it onto the white reflective sides of the spaceship. The aliens watch, huddled in an intergalactic cumbaya circle.
The story begins. A bon-vivant earthling named Andrew (Joshua Leonard) knocks on his buddy Ben’s door, hoping to reunite with his old college pal after all these years. Since they parted company in college, Andrew toured the world, getting his Jack Kerouac on. Ben (Mark Duplass) married Anna (Alicia Delmore), bought a house and signed up for suburban life.
This impromptu visit, it turns out, is just the beginning of a comic bromance in which both guys try to rekindle the spark and adventure they believe they had in college days. The trouble starts at a wild party where the friends dare themselves to enter a pornographic film festival. Their entry will feature them — two heterosexuals — having full-on sex.
“Straight balling,” they jokingly call it. “Beyond gay.”
Their reasons for doing this? Completely impossible to decipher. The movie consists, mostly, of long, chatty encounters between characters that yield little in the way of plausible explanation.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” Ben tells his wife Anna when she confronts him about this idea. “I just know it’s important to me. I don’t see why we have to get worked up about this.”
The aliens’ highly developed brains work themselves into a frenzy, trying to parse the possible reasons the friends would randomly decide to film themselves having sex with each other. Ben and Andrew are old school buddies who were always one-upping each other. This was Ben’s howl of the soul for freedom because he was headed into full-on marriage and parenting. Ben decided to do this after a Bohemian shot in the soul at that crazy party.
But the aliens are lost without the vital Sundance decoder ring that explains so many elements of indie cinema — the depressingly murky lighting, overextended takes, pseudo seriousness, false profundities, tentative performances posing as postmodern vulnerability, and concocted motivations.
So they scratch their heads. And pick at their codpieces. When the movie finally ends, they stand up. Bewildered.
One alien offers his opinion.
“It seems to say that these young people became so bored and unimaginative about their freedom, they didn’t know what to do with themselves.”
“Except take off their garments and film themselves doing NGOYIK QUOSHMOZ with each other,” adds another, who is well known for speaking crassly.
“Maybe this was about a challenge to test one’s own boundaries.”
“Test what boundaries? Personal sanity?”
“Perhaps the movie is a message to us,” says yet another. “That this species became so bored with the freedom in their lives, their brains atrophied and they sabotaged their personal lives. And they would like all species to bypass their planet entirely, in case this intellectual lethargy is catching.”
Many heads nod. Yong Travulgar clears his throat. It’s time for a decision.
“We have the power to travel through time and save this race. We could go back and help them. Teach them the proper way.”
“Let us move on,” says one. “These people don’t look as if they will learn from their mistakes.”
“They are also very pasty,” says another.
The aliens pile back into their spaceship, continuing their search for a planet that contains intelligent — and intelligible — life.