Film Title: Drinking Buddies
Director: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston
Running Time: 90 min
Even if you loathe the ‘like y’know’ relationships and slow-voiced hipsters that define the Mumblecore movement, you have to admire filmmaker Joe Swanberg. A gifted actor, editor and cinematographer , Swanberg directs relationship dramas so low-key and deftly assembled that they often slip past, unnoticed. A prolific talent, he has become attached to at least six more movies since he shot Drinking Buddies earlier this year. We’ve also watched him squirm in this summer’s breakout Mumblegore hit, You’re Next. Like that film, Drinking Buddies suggests that Swanberg’s micro-budget features are now ready for the big league. A starry cast reinforces the notion.
Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are colleagues at a Chicago micro-brewery who like to hang out after work and get hammered. She’s in a relationship with the earnest, older Chris (Office Space’s Ron Livingston) while Luke lives with Jill (Anna Kendrick). It is clear, nonetheless, that Kate and Luke are what advice columns like to call “emotionally involved”. Will they disentangle themselves from their existing romances? Or is their relationship entirely predicated on the consumption of crafted booze?
Workshopped, improvised and mostly shot in small spaces, Swanberg’s intimate drama is teased out with killer, subtle performances. There are implications about gender differences and alcohol. Is Kate incapable of detaching herself from Luke because she’s further gone than he is? Or is he just a bit more flippant? These issues are never loudly articulated or neatly resolved. Indeed, Drinking Buddies’ most appealing quality is that, while everybody behaves like a jerk, nobody actually is one. This is a thoughtful, grownup feature about baby-men and at least one baby-
woman. In a medium where we’re consistently assaulted by the shrill, joyless hags of Apatow films and various ditzy manic pixie girls, a woman with a disgusting apartment and bad habits comes across like a thing of beauty and a joy forever.