Monday, September 2, 2013

Drinking Buddies (2013)


There are people who prefer The Beatles and people who prefer Elvis.  There are those who like to drive fast and those who challenge themselves to conserve as much gas as possible.  In Drinking Buddies, there are the folks who naturally reach for a beer, even with breakfast, and everybody else who reaches for wine, water, booze, or soda. 

How obvious is Drinking Buddies?  There are two couples.  Each pair has one person who drinks beer and one who drinks wine.  What are the odds these couples make it to the end of the movie together?  Director Joe Swanberg filmed an unscripted movie.  The actors knew the plot outline and the overall sequence, but they improvised their own lines and there is never a scene where the audience won’t notice it.  Swanberg may have angled for an atmosphere of natural conversation and an easy-going tone, but it comes across as forced laughter and choppy dialog.  Drinking Buddies bills itself as an outrageous, screwball comedy, but I am pretty sure I did not laugh one time.

Set in a fledgling microbrewery trying to gain itself some market share, Kate (Olivia Wilde), the girl in charge of marketing, and Luke (Jake Johnson), one of the brewmasters, have a sort of brother/sister vibe with each other.  They each lunch together everyday, they pick on one another, and they go out drinking together almost every night.  There respective significant others are more homebodies and would rather curl up with a good book.

Kate’s boyfriend, Chris (Ron Livingston), is rarely seen with a beer in his hand, gives Kate a John Updike novel as a gift, and notices Luke’s girlfriend, Jill (Anna Kendrick), during a couple’s double-date getaway weekend.  Chris and Jill want to go hiking; Kate and Luke want to drink beer and play cards.  Chris packs a bottle of wine for the hike and coincidentally, Jill brought along two wine glasses.  Luke and Kate crack open another six-pack.  This set-up may be the most obvious non-scripted plot ever.

Swanberg latched on to the mumblecore tag he usually is associated with and decided to take it even further.  Low production values?  Check.  Natural dialog?  How about no script at all.  There are emotional issues including jealousy, friendship with more than a dash of intimacy, and the most important question the film addresses, “Can I see myself marrying someone who drinks so much beer?”  You’ll want to chug your own six-pack after sitting through Drinking Buddies.

Directed by: Joe Swanberg
Written by: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Linvingston, Ti West, Jason Sudeikis

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