Sex makes it weird.
That was the core of Lynn Shelton's last film, the anemic, timid Humpday, in which two heterosexual male friends -- Mark Duplass and The Blair Witch Project's Joshua Leonard -- decide to lose their man-on-man virginity for the sake of a filmed art project. It all turns into an extended game of "gay chicken," with each shy guy trying to maneuver himself out of the scenario while the film spends a lot of time congratulating them on having the best of daring intentions.
But Shelton gets the double-dog-dare sex out of the way quickly this time around. Duplass returns, as Jack, a fragile, grieving man still mourning the loss of his dead brother and causing a scene at a one-year memorial. By way of intervention, his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) encourages him to go to her family's vacation home on an island off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. He does so and accidentally runs into Blunt's sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), already occupying the house. Hannah's grieving, too, the loss of a seven-year lesbian relationship. Add tequila, an awkward toast to her "soft, supple butt," a spare condom and boom, the lesbian changes her stripes for a night (note: if this happened in real life as often as movies wish it would, there wouldn't be any lesbians left).
One more problem: Iris is the one in love with Jack. Ignorant of this, Hannah simply uses him sexually for her own purposes. The rest of the comfy, picturesque weekend, then, is consumed with secrets, revelations and a fumbling, whispered, hammering out of motives, desires and reconciliations. In between there are bad vegan pancake breakfasts ("I'm emotionally allergic to butter," says Hannah) and, in what constitutes the most energetic action in the film, a bicycle beatdown from Jack that I hope was a shout-out to the chair-wrestling scene in Harmony Korine's Gummo.
It's a lot less insufferable than it sounds. That's because Duplass, Blunt and DeWitt share an ease and unforced intimacy that brings you around to finally caring about their characters' ability to untangle this unforeseen knot. If the movie isn't up to their abilities it's thanks to a rushed final third that feels the need to force that untangling quickly and without much messy aftermath, kind of like how it went down in Humpday. And that's a bummer. So here's to the next installment involving people who just let that awkward sexual tension hang in the air for more than a few hours, here's to letting sex keep it weird.