Beer is just a huge part of my life. I love it. All kinds of beer. Porters, stouts, IPAs, Wheat Beers, Lagers, the whole nine yards. Beer is something you drink with good food, on special occasions and with great friends. Directed by Joe Swanberg, and largely improvised, ‘Drinking Buddies’ follows two friends who work at a brewery who share a love of beer, and possibly a more complicated love of each other, despite being with others.
Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde) are two best friends who work at a local brewery. They spend most of their time flirting around and sharing their love of beer with each other. They clearly have a thing for each other, but of course they are both in good relationships with Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Chris (Ron Livingston). When you add the mind altering effects of beer into the mix, this formula becomes complicated.
So I’ve been a huge fan of Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde for a while now, and Anna Kendrick has been great in basically everything that she’s been in. Throw in Ron Livingston, and what immediately stands out in this film is the effortless and amazing acting and chemistry between these characters. Romantic comedies can be incredibly cheesy sometimes, and the dialogue wrought with cliches and dumb lines. But with ‘Drinking Buddies’ being mostly improvised by these incredible actors, that is never the case.
The dialogue and situations in this film are so effortlessly real that you feel like a fly on the wall. Nothing is dressed up. Nothing is doctored. It is what it is. This makes each moment in the film even more relevant to it’s audience because it rarely forces anything on you. It unfolds as it will, and you are left to draw your own conclusions as to why each character does what they do, or say what they say. It’s a dynamic that only indie movies seem to capture, and even then it’s incredible rare.
The movie is technically billed as a romantic comedy/drama, but it never really attempts to make you laugh out loud, like a Hollywood comedy. There are no real one liners or punchlines. Rather than make you laugh out loud a few times, what it does is make you smile and chuckle the whole way through with it’s humorous situations and conversations that sound an awful lot like those we might have on a daily basis.
In terms of the drama itself, that is also presented really well. It is slow, and deliberate, and nothing really big ever actually happens for much of the film. But this is not a negative. The drama is there in the grandest sense, but it is in the characters, and it is our job to see it. Scattered in the middle of the fun and drinking are a few key, monumental scenes that really drive the story along, and when they arrive the actors are flawless. The film is defined by subtle interactions and director Joe Swanberg did a great job getting these out of his team.
The other thing I liked about this film is that it didn’t really follow your typical movie cliches. It hints like it might, but it always seems to take them in a different direction than you might expect, which is refreshing to see. Connected to this is the fact that you never quite know who to root for and no character can really be defined by what you may anticipate after they’re first introduced. This adds a lot of complexity to the film and makes it all the more engrossing.
Drinking Buddies is a wonderfully acted, refreshing, funny, touching and original film that presents real life situations that we can all relate to. Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde show that they can really, really act, as do Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston. A surprise hit that will keep you engrossed in it’s short and sweet running time, but also surprise you and take you in directions that you wouldn’t expect from other romantic films. Grab a beer and check it out. Plus, Olivia Wilde takes her shirt off, so that’s worth at least another half a point right?