What looks at first glance to be a fairly innocuous comedy turns out to be a much cleverer than anticipated commentary on the nature of relationships. And booze.
In Drinking Buddies, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are 30-something co-workers at a brewery who share a passion for drinking beer and a general sense that they don’t quite fit in to the adult world. Their friendship is an outlet for a playful and flirtatious side of themselves that seems unfulfilled within their individual long-term relationships. Jill (Anna Kendrick) is a special-needs teacher whose certainty about what she wants in life stands in contrast to Luke’s perpetual befuddlement, while Chris’ (Ron Livingston) successful career as a music producer seems to intimidate and threaten Kate. A weekend away together provides the setting for the two couples to explore the tensions, both stated and unstated, that exist between them.
Drinking Buddies is a slow and measured film, in which writer and director Joe Swanberg adeptly captures the glances, stutters, and pauses that portray and often betray the subliminal desires and frustrations of the characters. Filmed in a working brewery, the film manages to portray a piece of reality, and the humour follows suit. It is spontaneous, pervasive, and subtle – not razor sharp or choreographed. There’s plenty of giggles, but few laugh-out-loud moments, which in its own way is refreshing, and a largely improvised script allows Wilde and Kendrick in particular to shine. While the focus for the most part is on Wilde and Johnson, there is an air of ambivalence that accompanies the conflict between all the characters that both challenges and engages the audience. Drinking Buddies may not be the conventional relationship comedy that it initially seems, but it is a thoughtful and entertaining film that begs the question – do we know when we’ve had enough?
Published in Gazette Group titles (Swords Gazette, Malahide Gazette, Blanchardstown Gazette, Castleknock Gazette, Dundrum Gazette, Dun Laoghaire Gazette, Lucan Gazette, Clondalkin Gazette) on 7th Nov 2013.