In Drinking Buddies, out on DVD December 3, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work together at a small Chicago brewery. They’re great friends, teasing each other during the work day and going out drinking with other employees after work. They wind up vacationing together at a lake cabin with their significant others; Luke’s been with Jill (Anna Kendrick) for several years, while Kate is dating Chris (Ron Livingston).
The question in the viewer’s mind is “why aren’t Kate and Luke together?” since they seem to have more in common than either does with their partner. In my mind, Jill and Chris are more interesting and desirable people, since I kept worrying about whether Kate and Luke are technically alcoholics. We rarely see them without a beer in hand or nearby.
A later sequence, during an apartment move, shows off how immature the two leads can be, particularly when faced with the need to make rapid decisions. I suppose the question of whom you date and whom you’re friends with, now that women and men hang out together socially with fewer boundaries, is a complex one for many people, and showing the complications on-screen reflects many people’s experiences.
I’m not sure how best to describe this film. It’s billed as a comedy, but there aren’t jokes or, in my case, much laughter. It’s more a slice-of-life picture, spending an hour and a half just hanging out with these folks as they wander through their existence. “Mumblecore” seems appropriate, since there’s lots of talking aimed at capturing realism, which means ums and pauses and dialogue that doesn’t go anywhere. The movie was improvised, with no set script (just plot points), which explains the looseness, lack of focus, and open ending.
Those who like it call it “honest”; those who don’t will think it’s a waste of time. While realism can be a virtue, I expect more structure and payoff to my films. I know people say “well, life doesn’t have pat endings”, but I’m watching a movie. If I wanted something just like life, I wouldn’t need to see a film. Then again, maybe it’s better if you drink. If you like beer, you’ll want one while watching this.
Drinking Buddies will likely appeal to those who can identify with and relate to the young adult cast, characters who haven’t been forced to grow up and don’t understand why they should when their aimless lives are just fine for now. I found it an excellent companion, something to have on with voices for company without requiring my full attention, since so little (in the traditional movie sense) actually happens. It may also be an interesting time capsule, something to watch in a decade or more to remember what people looked like and were thinking about in 2013.
Similar films to this would be Before Sunrise, (500) Days of Summer, Your Sister’s Sister, and Celeste & Jesse Forever. The DVD includes the following special features:
- Commentary With Writer/Director Joe Swanberg, Producer Andrea Roa, and Producer Alicia Van Couvering
- Deleted Scenes/Outtakes — Seven minutes with optional director commentary.
- Interviews — One each for the four main cast members (two to four minutes each), which can be played individually or all together. They talk about their characters, the setting, beer, improvisation, and whether the movie is a comedy.
- AXS TV: A Look at Drinking Buddies — A three-minute promotional piece explaining the film with clips and footage from the interviews.
- All Things Drinking With Director Joe Swanberg and “Drinking Made Easy” Host Zane Lamprey — A half-hour discussion that covers, among other things, the process Swanberg used to make the picture.
- Behind the Scenes at Revolution Brewing — At the real-life brewery where the movie was filmed, we’re shown four minutes of how they make beer.
- Theatrical Trailer, as shown below.
One oddity — although the poster and promo pictures show a clean-shaven Johnson, he wears a hipster full beard in the movie, and I found the discrepancy slightly jarring. (The studio provided a review copy.)