Drinking Buddies has been popping up all over my radar recently, with fellow film bloggers both reviewing and recommending it. And they do so for good reason as this was an unexpected treat. It struck quite a few chords with me as it delved into the authentic, realistic relationships we build and maintain in the real world.
Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) both work at the same brewery and have quite a lot in common. Both are fun-loving, wise-cracking individuals who enjoy the occasional (understatement) beer together. Initially from the outside we might view them as perfect couple material and believe that there are two serious spanners in these potential works; Jill (Anna Kendrick), Luke’s long-term girlfriend, and Chris (Ron Livingston), Kate’s affluent producer boyfriend. As with all things in life though, things are rarely as they seem at first glance, and not every romantic comedy has a sappy, saccharine and predictable happy ending.
This film relies on its characters and their interactions to carry it through to a conclusion. It has little need for outside influence or plot device. It stays true to the people involved and it presents us with real, relatable individuals who struggle and hide when faced with feelings and emotions that could threaten their carefully constructed cocoons. That’s what we do in real life; there are no grand, sweeping gestures, no declarations of undying love in the rain. Just the cold hard truth that while life may sometimes give you lemons, it doesn’t always give you enough to make lemonade.
I could harp on about these characters and their interesting quirks and flaws until the cows come home, but any in-depth analysis would merely spoil this film for anyone who might want to see it and form their own opinions. I will say that I disagree with Drinking Buddies‘ common synopsis; Kate and Luke are not as perfect for each other as they seem. I believe that this realisation is what completely sold me on the authenticity of this movie.
Technically, it’s hard for me to comment on areas like script, for example, as I’ve learned that there was none. The entire film was improvised by the actors involved. This news sort of boggled my mind and added a new dimension to the performances. Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens, Tron) simply batted this one out of the park. She was entirely convincing as Kate, with a natural, sometimes beautiful charisma that lit up my screen whenever she was on it. The chemistry she shared with Jake Johnson (New Girl), who plays drinking buddy Luke, is so spot-on that there were times I felt I could suspend all belief that these were roles they were playing. This is a testament to how well the improvised script worked, because they hit the perfect note of realism. Anna Kendrick (50/50, Pitch Perfect) as Luke’s girlfriend Jill was a little less of a revelation, as sometimes I felt unsure as to what kind of person she was trying to be. One minute she’s sociable, witty, and the next she’s a stammering, emotionally inept bore. Maybe that was the point and I just didn’t get it.
One point I did get was that we never really get to know, or learn much about these characters. How true to life is that in itself? How much can we truly learn about a person from ninety minutes of listening to or observing interactions and exchanges? Not all that much. As with real life, as I can attest to, we find our most vulnerable, open moments are those when our guards are let down. When we’re intoxicated. When we’re angry. We learn more about our two main characters during these fleeting moments than we do in the entire film combined. This is a classic example of show, don’t tell. And with an excellent soundtrack to accompany, it was hard not to appreciate what all involved were trying to achieve.
At first I was hesitant to class Drinking Buddies as a romantic comedy, because aside from the fact that I normally hate them, it didn’t feel romantic. I was a half an hour in and I was wondering where the feck this was all going to go, but by the end I was totally engrossed in this tense, uncommon glimpse into the lives of normal people, who have normal desires and needs. This is what romance is, to me personally, and it’s not all that romantic.
I would recommend this to fans of Wilde, because she was quite breathtaking in this, and anyone who might like a break from the sickly sweet, cliched offerings this genre normally brings to the party. If you like closure in your flicks or a side of Heigl with your rom-com fix, then this isn’t for you.
IMDB Rating: 6.2
Do I agree?: I’d happily give this a 7; for surprising me and, of course, for Olivia Wilde.
- Midweek Movie – Drinking Buddies (2013) (thomasjford.wordpress.com)
- Film Review – Drinking Buddies (thoughtsfromthebooth.com)