Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Drinking Buddies

Directed & Written 
Joe Swanberg

     People drinking beer, dealing with everyday situations, like romance, friendship and, yes, drinking more beer. I do not know if drinking beer is an everyday situation, but it is a good occurrence. It is a simple premise and realistic revolving point for "Mumblecore" founder Joe Swanberg's newest film Drinking Buddies, but it is so much more than that. It is about everyday people going through what all of us go through. Relationships, emotions, friendships and the choices we make along the way. Well, maybe not everyone drinks beer or even craft beer for that matter, but the film is steeped in an honest approach at day-to-day lives. The complications, the fun and the conversations between friends and lovers. This film is not so profound that it makes you think differently about life, but it is a film that felt like it was truthful and pure. Not to mention it contains some fine acting and lots of drinking beer.
     Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work together at a Chicago craft brewery. They are good friends but also talk a lot and flirt even more. The only thing that seems to keep these two from diving right into a romantic connection is that both of them are in relationships with someone else. Kate is dating a music producer Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke is in a serious, live-in relationship with Jill (Anna Kendrick). Kate and Luke enjoy drinking together, joking around and the sexual tension is evident with every glance, but they also are soaked in a coat of honesty that grounds them. Being in there late twenties, early thirties, they still exhibit immaturity. These two are on that line between being a grown up and making adult decisions, and spending every night at the pub with friends all night.
     Swanberg has crafted a film that has advanced his style of disillusionment, emotional weight, relationships and that time where you are figuring out in what direction you are going to go with your life. Many of his other films, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends, and Uncle Kent revolve around these same themes of that barrier, or border, between adulthood and youth, but he bulked it up a bit with more notable actors in Drinking Buddies. This is an accessible film, but most of his films are. The thing that is so interesting and enjoyable about this one is seeing the performances, especially Wilde and Johnson. They look and act like they have been best friends for a long time, and the fact that nothing feels fake or unnecessary between them. It is an honest, realistic story that could have, or has happened, to anyone, in any place. That is what is so good about the film. The fact that it is real and not phony.
     Not to give too much away in plot details, this film brings about sincere, serious choices that these characters must make. I love the fact that Swanberg does not sugar coat any of these decisions and keeps everyone leveled and balanced, but at the same time complex. Jill is an ambitious woman who is ready to settle down, get married and start a family. The issue is, and most guys have gone through this, I know I have, is that she loves Luke so much and wants to spend the rest of her life with him, but is almost having to force him to get going on it. Buy the ring, propose, and get hitched. Luke has to make the decision for the both of them cause she is ready and has already made her mind up. It is time for Luke to grow up and either get married or not. If he his not ready then she cannot force him and must move on with her life.
     Kate is in the relationship with the older, probably late thirties, Chris and he, much like Jill, is looking for something more. Something and someone to possibly settle down with and get a future going. He is not sure if Kate is the right one or not. However, Kate is searching. Searching a lot. She is smart, beautiful and figuring her life out. She wants love but maybe is not sure what kind of love she wants at this moment. Wilde is much like Greta Gerwig in her films with Swanberg. Where is she at and what is she doing? I believe she loves Chris, but also is not sure what she wants out of life yet. She does not want to be alone, but wants to be with someone who wants to be with her as well. She makes ill advised, drunken decisions in the film that upsets Luke, but in the end she chooses correctly and wisely. She realizes the importance of what Jill and Luke have and by choosing the way she does, has grown immensely in her own life. Yes there is an attraction and connection between Kate and Luke throughout the whole film, but is it truly what both of them want? Swanberg delicately writes and directs these moments, that I am sure had plenty of improvisations and ends the movie with a sublime, beautiful touch.
     The performances are perfect in this film. Johnson is funny, sincere and dramatic. It seems so natural for him and in a film like this, his strengths come through in excellent ways. He does not hit a false note at all. He can go from making you laugh one time, to a growing emotion that crawls inside of you and holds on. He shows a lot of depth and range in his portrayal of a man coming to a point in his life where changes and decisions are becoming highly serious adventures. The only minor issue is that throughout the whole film he has a scruffy beard and in the poster is clean shaved. Odd. Livingston and Kendrick are great as well. Solid performances from both and Kendrick has a touching moment towards the end of the film where she delivers with full force and grace.
     The real standout is Wilde though. If there is a film role that will have her break out, hopefully it is this one. That is not to say she does not have credentials already, but this role gives her assured indie cred now. She downplays her beauty by just being one of the guys. She seems so comfortable and natural. She exemplifies the complexities of being a woman searching for what she wants out of life. Wilde has so much emotion and range that there was not a second where I did not believe her playing Kate. She brought so much life and humor to this character. Her decisions and choices were handled so beautifully by Wilde and it was a joy to see her in this film.
     Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies is one of the better films I have seen this summer. This time of the year is filled with terrible comedies, superhero nonsense and mega blockbusters that usually fizzle out right away for me. This film is a great alternative. It is an honest portrayal of love, life and growth. It felt so realistic and did not try to put on the emotions to make the audience, well me, feel a certain way. The acting, writing and directing is fantastic and if you are wanting to see a realistic film about everyday life, seek this film out. You will not be disappointed. Did I mention there is a lot of beer drinking in it. Really enjoyable, good film and another step up for Swanberg and his depictions of what it is to be growing up in America. 

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