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‘Drinking Buddies’ Review

drinking-buddies1I am a self-professed fan of beer (A connoisseur, if you will. You won’t? Well, fine.), so when a movie comes along that features the alcoholic beverage heavily, and at the same time doesn’t feature frat parties and drunken revelry, I’m all for checking it out.

Thankfully, Drinking Buddies treats drinking right, and it also manages to provide a pretty compelling plot and characters to fit around the multitude of beer swilling scenes.

Written and directed by Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies concerns the “will they, won’t they” relationship between two best friends and co-workers, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson). Both are in serious relationships, Luke with Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Kate with Chris (Ron Livingston).

I didn’t have a lot to go on when I decided to watch this movie, save for a vague trailer that suggested out of bounds romance for one of the central couples. However, the film encompasses a lot more than romance and goes into a surprising amount of detail about the lives of these characters.

While romance is a large part of the movie, it also has a lot to say about the point Kate is at in her life. I don’t want to get too explicit on that front, due to spoilers, but her motivations outside of love and sex are pretty compelling on their own.

However, since this movie mostly deals with friendship and crossing the line into a physical relationship, I suppose I should talk about that. I’ll say this: It’s handled really well.

This kind of topic – fodder for just about every romantic comedy out there – could have been written poorly. However, the amount of characterization and chemistry involved makes it feel fresh and organic.

It doesn’t hurt that every major hurdle (all of which serve as typical romantic tropes) does a 360-degree turn and goes off in a direction you aren’t expecting.

That’s one of the major reasons this movie is so refreshing – it doesn’t handle the topic in a way I’ve seen before. It seems to take on all the cliches that permeate the rom-com genre and dismantle them, creating something in the process that you really have no idea the endgame of.

None of this would matter if the characters were terrible, and outside of Wilde’s character, everyone else is solid as well. The fact that the entire cast improvised all the dialogue with zero script makes everything feel incredibly natural. It really adds to the spur-of-the-moment feel of the film.

Really, if I had to mention a downside of this film, it would have to be Kendrick’s character, Jill. While the usually hilarious actress does fine with the role, there isn’t much to go on, and the character comes off feeling flat.

This isn’t a huge deal, since she’s not a major part of the movie, but she could have felt more three-dimensional. As things currently stand, Kendrick’s talent seemed wasted and just about any actress would have suited the part just fine.

However, this is a very small qualm in a movie that is funny, tender, well directed and acted, and feels good all around, even when dealing with a topic that always has a danger of coming off as melodramatic and half-assed.

Kudos, guys.

four stars

  • Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson
  • Directed by: Jon Swanberg
  • Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Genre: Romance, Comedy