This indie comedy/drama is about 2 couples. The first is Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Chris (Ron “have I ever been in a studio movie before?” Livingston). The second being Luke (Jake Johnson) and Jill (Anna Kendrick). But really, it’s more about the friendship between Kate and Luke. They both work in a brewery that makes craft beer. Luke is one of the guys who actually does the brewing, while Kate handles all the sales. They both go out with their co-workers every day after work to let off steam by having several drinks. Kate invites Luke and Jill up to Chris’s cabin for a couples weekend. While up there, the couples switch hanging out with each other. Chris and Jill go out hiking while Kate and Luke stay at the cabin and drink. Something happens, which I won’t reveal, but it causes some stress within these couples. When they return, Jill leaves for Costa Rica with some friends, while Chris dumps Kate. Luke helps Kate move in to a new place, and during which their friendship seems to be growing stronger. Do they like each other? Would it work?
This movie kind of starts off like every other low-key indie comedy I’ve ever seen. But then something happened. I really began to like these characters, especially Kate and Luke. They have such a special bond that felt genuine. I loved watching these two interact with each other, and their chemistry gets stronger throughout the film. And it doesn’t go in the most predictable direction either. Just when I thought it was going to go somewhere, it goes somewhere else. I liked that.
The reason why any of this works as well as it does is the acting. Everyone does exceptionally well here. Ron Livingston is kind of an indie-king these days, but he’s still quite good. Even better is Anna Kendrick who delivers an honest performance of a self-doubting character. Jake Johnson, who is most known for his role on TV’s THE NEW GIRL, is fantastic as Luke. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy who has a tough decision to make. He deeply loves Jill, but he also has a certain affection for Kate. He just has to decide if it’s strictly platonic or not. He’s kind of the funny guy in the movie, but he also can do some dramatic lifting when needed to. But the real surprise here is Olivia Wilde. To be honest, I’ve always thought of her as a kind of alien with her unrealistic beauty, perfect complexion and plucked eyebrows. Even with bags under her eyes, she still looks like a supermodel. So accepting her as a “just one of the boys” type of character is kind of hard to swallow. And yet, Wilde pulls it off because of her completely honest performance. She is so genuine and natural here. But the absolute best part of this movie is the chemistry between Johnson and Wilde. They have a special kind of charm when they share the screen together. It made me think of some of my best friends (that are girls) and how we act towards one another. It felt very real.
The direction by Joe Swanberg is very good. I have to especially applaud him for one thing. Thank God you didn’t follow that Indie-film cliche and use handheld camera work! Nope! He uses smooth stedicam shots. And it’s also shot in a wide aspect ratio. It still feels like an independent movie, but it does have a fresh feel to it. The writing is very natural, though I have a hunch that at least some of the dialogue was improvised. And successfully at that. I also thought that this was going to be more of a comedy, and while there is some humor, none of it is through cheap jokes, but through the way the characters play off of one another. This was a lot more serious than I thought, and it really works.
This is a small movie, but the characters are completely believable and likable. It starts small, but builds to a climax that surprisingly had lots of emotion and heart. DRINKING BUDDIES is a surprisingly complex and charming movie about 2 best friends who are at a crossroads in their lives. Olivia Wilde gives her best performance to date, and her chemistry with Jake Johnson is a joy to watch. As far as indie dramedies go, this is one of the very good ones. ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated R for language throughout.
– Running time: 1hr 30min.