Movie Review: Drinking Buddies

by Amy LaCount

I’m no beer aficionado, but I found Drinking Buddies to be like a cold, clear drink of artisanal beer – savory with rich, emphasized notes while also sparkling with subtlety.

In writer/director Joe Swanberg’s film, perhaps the allusion is intentional – Drinking Buddies features two – you guessed it – drinking buddies who are coworkers at a craft brewery in Chicago, who negotiate their feelings for each other while in relationships with other people. 

Jake Johnson (of New Girl and Safety Not Guaranteed) oozed chemistry with leading lady Olivia Wilde (The O.C.). It was easy to laugh with them, to root for them, while remaining bothered by their inappropriate friendship. You felt equally for Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston, a.k.a. the almost-cuckolds. It was easy to form an attachment to this very friendly foursome.

The movie starts out seeming to adhere to the familiar, formulaic romantic comedy – two “mismatched” couples, who the audience expects to switch around until they find the right match, as if life were that simple. Instead, Swanberg teases out the relationships and complexities of all four parters, in a way that, you know, happens in real life. 

What is possibly most impressive about this movie is that it delves into a lot of #realtalks that don’t seem forced (as they tend to in pretty much every romantic comedy), probably because the entire film was totally improvised. (Swanberg sketched a general outline of the film and told the actors to roll with it.) As a result, the movie feels like a snapshot of real life – with all the messy, complicated, human relationship bits thrown in for good measure.

The beauty of the film is that – baby spoiler alert – one is kept in the dark as to whether Luke and Kate – Johnson and Wilde, respectively – acted on their romantic impulses, or remained faithfully friends. Wilde glows as an anti-slutshamer and an anti-rape-apologist in a very firm boys club, not unlike her bartending character Alex in the second season of the O.C. (If Wilde is being typecast here, I can only say that I ain’t mad about it.) As an intern at a feminist magazine, I can definitely appreciate this aspect of the film.

Drinking Buddies hits all the right notes – hoppy and robust, with just a hint of chocolate around the closing notes. JK, but actually though – it’s a feel-good film about a not-so-feel-good subject, a romantic comedy that lingers on the really annoying, messy parts of romance; this is a movie you totally don’t wanna miss.

Photos via IMDB

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