Title: Drinking Buddies
Director: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston
Release Date: November 1st
Drinking Buddies is an unexpected take on the garden-variety will-they-or-won’t-they romantic comedy. The story follows buddies Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) who work together at a Chicago craft brewery and have clear sexual tension despite the fact that they’re both in other relationships.
After a quiet, ill-fated couples’ weekend at a cabin in the woods around Lake Michigan, the established order of the film slowly and expertly falls to pieces. The film’s flaws are of the glaringly obvious sort, but get themselves out of the way very quickly.
The dialogue consists mainly of the kind of non-developmental chat that filmmakers tend to think makes their movies more realistic, while Olivia Wilde plays yet another one of those effortless beauties who doesn’t want to do anything but drink beer and play cards with the guys. In addition, character development stagnates a little by resting too heavily on the audience’s ability to read between the sparse lines of dialogue.
Despite this, Drinking Buddies still manages to be thoroughly captivating. Wilde and Johnson are entirely believable as best friends who might be something more, while Ron Livingston (Chris) is at home with the typically indie, low-key atmosphere.
As usual, Anna Kendrick gives a beautiful performance, in this instance as insecure special education teacher Jill. Director Joe Swanberg makes a film that is very clearly content within the indie comedy genre, but foregoes typical low budget stylisation in favour of a minimalist soundtrack, steady and efficient cinematography and lack of empty profundities about the changing world and other postmodern non-issues.
A notable element of the film’s production is the emphasis placed on improvisation by the actors in leading roles, which, despite its drawbacks, lends the film an organic depth in more intimate moments and allows the plot to shy away from typical Hollywood interpretations of romance.
The film does skirt around the fact that Kate and Luke are, at best, functional alcoholics, though the fact that the alcohol they imbibe so frequently is a gold coloured craft beer softens the concept into a vague portrayal of their deep immaturity.
One of film’s main strengths is that when it starts to fall too far into melodrama and predictability it self-referentially pulls the audience back in, a quality that can’t be valued enough. Ultimately, Drinking Buddies is a rewarding master class in pacing. Strong performances and a fresh, authentic style make it a standout example of its genre.
In A Nutshell: A slow-burning romantic comedy with something sweet and light at its centre, Drinking Buddies works through its failures and comes out eminently watchable on the other side.