Drinking Buddies (2013)


Hipsters and beer: Let the sexual-fluids begin to fly!

Luke and Kate (Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde) work at a brewery in Chicago and could probably be confused as a loving, long-term couple. They bicker, they flirt, they play around, they constantly hang out, they get drunk together, and they’re always talking, so why the hell aren’t they together? Well, for starters, Luke is with a modest school-teacher Jill (Anna Kendrick), and Kate is tied-down to the quasi-intellectual, older Chris (Ron Livingston). Eventually, these four all hang-out and spend the weekend at Chris’s mountain house, but that’s when things begin to get a little weird for these four, and they eventually all come to terms with who they want to be with, why, and just who they are as people. Well, that, and a whole bunch of drinking as well. Can’t forget about that fact.

Many will probably dub this as the “coming out” of sorts for writer/director Joe Swanberg who, in case you don’t know, has been the name to run by when it comes to looking for “Mumblecore” films. The style irks some, but recently, it’s been getting a lot of notice and it seems like Swanberg has finally picked-up all of the momentum and speed he needed to finally get his beloved genre out there for the rest of the world to see. Whether or not they’ll take it and accept it for all that it is, is totally left to be decided, but if it’s is this movie that’s going to bring that somewhat annoying genre to the center-fold of the rest of the movie world; then I can see a brighter-future ahead. For the genre at least.

Playing with one another's food? Yup, totally in love!
Playing with one another’s food? It’s gotta be love!

What works so well with this flick is that everything about it, from the conversations, to the style, to the plot-transitioning, all feels real and natural, as if we’re watching real-life happen right in front of our very eyes. Granted, these characters are probably a lot better-looking than us normal-beings, but it’s easy to take them in as real people, who obviously have real feelings and emotions, despite them trying to hide it with all of their might. Most of what happens in this movie, actually, is very small and subtle, but the reactions and the feelings are real, and never make you feel like you’re watching a movie, where a bunch of really talented-people are acting their assess off, just so they can seem “indie enough” to be respected. For most movies, that is obviously the case, but everything here feels so normal and well-played, that you don’t feel it.

Despite it being a very naturalistic movie, it’s also a very thoughtful one that isn’t preachy or as obvious with it’s message as one may think. Swanberg touches on several points about our human-psyche like love, attraction, infidelity, and what cost they have attached to them but never anything too emotional or heavy-handed. It all plays itself out in a way where it makes you feel like you have just as much to learn as these characters in this movie, and that can sometimes be a blessing or a curse. However, with these characters and this script, it’s definitely more of the former than the latter. You’ll be happy to be hanging-around with these characters, feel a bit of an attachment to them, and also hope that everything churns out well for them, whether or not they fully deserve it.

And to be honest, there’s never any real “unlikable” character here to be found. The character of Chris should, on-paper, seem like a total and complete deuche-cake that thinks way too much, about nonsensical, meaningless things, but he actually comes off as just a dude that wants a little bit of love in his life, hasn’t quite found it yet, and is just waiting for that time to come, despite him being a little bit too old in the game to be slumming-around. He’s the only one that comes close to be considered “a bad guy”, which means that everyone else is lovable and easy-to-like, even if they do have some flaws. Actually, major flaws, but what would a human be if they didn’t have a little bit of flaws here and there, eh?

Probably the loveliest part of this whole flick is watching Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde on-screen together. Not only do they share a pitch-perfect chemistry that makes you believe these two as besties on and off the screen, but they also continue to have you guessing throughout the whole movie. Since there’s so much sexual-tension and under-lining love between the two, you can just feel like anything could happen between these two, at any given moment, for any reason. And hell, since they’re always around each other getting a little crunked-up, the odds get even more and more stacked-up as each and every new brew is consumed. These two together, whether it’s mostly improvised or scripted, is a work of beauty to behold and it’s made even better because both are great performers respectively.

The drink of death.
The hospitable drink of death.

Everybody knows Jake Johnson can act his ass off. Whether it’s being serious or comedic, Johnson’s always the go-to guy to make you laugh one second, and then cry the next. He just has that skill and it’s shown to full-effect here. However, when it comes to trumping Olivia Wilde’s screen-presence, Mr. Johnson can’t help but retreat and let her do her thing, which was great because it’s probably Wilde’s best performance ever. Not saying that she won’t get any more of these down the line, but for right now, the girl’s shown us something that not only impressed me with not only how unsympathetic she can be with some of the actions and decisions she decides to take, but with how sad and vulnerable she can be as well. We rarely ever see that side to her act, and it’s one that I wish to see more from her in the future because she’s so good at playing up the dramatic-side, but also still be able to charm us with her light touches as well. Wilde allows Kate to have a presence that isn’t all about being the life of the party or constantly-funny, but just a real person that lives in the moments and tries not to get too tied-down by dumb crap like break-ups or heartbreak, as hard as they may be to avoid.

Let’s hope this means better roles for Wilde, even if they don’t concern her getting naked. Although, I wouldn’t mind that that much either. I’m a man, dammit! I have needs!

Anna Kendrick is also here and very good as Luke’s gal-pal, Jill, who’s actually a bit more confused and depressed than anybody else in this flick. Kendrick is good at being all cute and cuddly when she wants, but also shows an under-lining sadness to her character that works and makes us feel like she’s more rounded-out, than just being known as “the girlfriend.” Same goes for Ron Livingston as Chris who, as I alluded to before, should be a dick, but somehow isn’t. He’s sympathetic, wholesome, and easy to care for, even if he does pull some odd actions here and there. Everybody here is good and all work off of each other perfectly. I can only hope that this means brighter, and better things for all of these stars in the future, even if some of them are already established ones as it is.

Consensus: Drinking Buddies sure as hell won’t last in your mind long after it’s over, but Swanberg’s writing and directing-style, and perfectly-cast group of workers, don’t really seem to be all concerned with that, and more concerned with showing us the realistic, if heartbreaking aspects of friendship and love, no matter how hard you try to stray away from it all.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Practically sleeping together...
Practically sleeping together…
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15 comments

  1. This looks/sounds interesting. I think I saw a little something about it awhile back but for some reason never sought it out. I really like all four of these actors and feel like they never get the attention they deserve, which is kind of what you were saying. Solid review as always.

  2. Awesome review! πŸ™‚ Definitely checking this out some time. Jake Johnson is totally awesome! Love him in everything he does. πŸ™‚ Swanberg directed this? I almost went to see the world premiere of his 24 Exposures yesterday. But other plans got in the way…That movie looks pretty awesome too! Plus, I missed out the chance to see him at the festival…

  3. Tough Jake Johnson seems to have similar character as his character in New Girl, but he’s still likeable! I haven’t heard about this, but you make me want to see it. I also want to check out every Anna Kendrick performance as she’s got big potential.

  4. Good review man. The chemistry, good and bad, in this film between the actors is perfect and the story is honest with touches of humor and sadness. It’s funny how the poster has Johnson with now beard and throughout the whole film he has one.

  5. Just saw this and agree. Really refreshing film about life and the small moments that feel so big. And yes, Olivia Wilde probably gives her best performance of her career, and looks phenomenal!!! Lucky Jason.

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