Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Jake Johnson, best known for portraying Nick Miller on New Girl, and Olivia Wilde play Luke and Kate, co-workers at a small brewery in Chicago. Though each is in a committed relationship with someone else, Luke and Kate share a very playful and flirtatious friendship. After meeting at one of the brewery functions, Kate’s boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston) invites Luke and his girlfriend Jill (Anna Kendrick) up to his family cottage for the weekend. Over many beers and wine, conversations are had and the future of both relationships begin to look at bit less certain.
Writer/director Joe Swanberg was reportedly given a budget of just under $1 million to make Drinking Buddies. Despite the many difficulties that come with independent cinema, there are also creative freedoms that are not always seen on bigger studio films. This type of flexibility allows ambitious filmmakers to take artistic chances as Swanberg did with this unique piece of cinema. Drinking Buddies had no script, but instead was completely improvised as the actors were given only a vague framework of the story. The talented young cast genuinely seems to be enjoying the freedom of this unorthodox style of filmmaking, as it allowed each actor to more personalize their dialogue. Olivia Wilde perfectly encapsulates the hot girl next door who just loves to be one of the guys. From the start, the on-screen chemistry between Wilde and Johnson is palpable, each exuding the flirtatious energy of two people who should probably be together if it wasn’t for the fact that each is already with someone else. Anna Kendrick is yet again the ultimate supporting star as she not only offers consistently splendid performances, but also makes every actor she works with better.
Overall, my best description for Drinking Buddies is it’s just a really cool flick; it poignantly captures the beautiful randomness of life. For those who desire a more straightforward romantic comedy plot, this film might not be for you. However, for cinema fans that appreciate more experimental indie films, what Drinking Buddies lacks in formal structure, it totally makes up for in charm and genuine emotion. We see relationships at various crossroads, complete with the awkward silences of things left unsaid, and jealous tension flairs as the film explores the perils of trying to be “just friends” with someone of the opposite sex. I can’t stress enough the importance of supporting smaller films, and one this ambitiously unique is definitely worth seeking out.