Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Joe Swanberg's 'Drinking Buddies' Starring Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde, Anne Kendrick & Ron Livingston

Photo of Cory Everett By Cory Everett | @modage August 23, 2013 at 4:07PM

With the rise of digital filmmaking in the last decade, a new wave of DIY "mumblecore" filmmakers have risen up through the ranks. While initially many of these films were loose and unpolished, they are now are becoming more refined with many of these directors and actors now having basically integrated themselves into the mainstream (or mainstream indie anyway). Of the directors who have come of age during this digital era, perhaps none is more notorious or divisive than Joe Swanberg, the writer/director/editor/actor responsible for 12 films over the last 8 years. With an output that prolific, you would think by now you should know whether Swanberg's brand of filmmaking is your cup of tea or not.
7
Drinking Buddies
Magnolia Pictures Magnolia Pictures' 'Drinking Buddies'

With the rise of digital filmmaking in the last decade, a new wave of DIY "mumblecore" filmmakers have risen up through the ranks. While initially many of these films were loose and unpolished, they are now are becoming more refined, with many of these directors and actors now having basically integrated themselves into the mainstream (or mainstream indie anyway). Of the directors who have come of age during this digital era, perhaps none is more notorious or divisive than Joe Swanberg, the writer/director/editor/actor responsible for 12 films over the last 8 years. With an output that prolific, you would think by now you should know whether Swanberg's brand of filmmaking is your cup of tea or not.


Drinking Buddies

As someone who had only been tangentially familiar with his work—I had seen two of his shorts and quite some time ago "Hannah Takes The Stairs" took up a semi-permanent residence in my Netflix queue—I found myself very pleasantly surprised by "Drinking Buddies," a low-key relationship comedy with some potent chemistry between the film's leads. Olivia Wilde stars as Kate, an attractive but unkempt office manager at a Chicago brewery. While not exactly a tomboy, she can still crack jokes, drink beer and keep up with her all-male coworkers without having to go out of her way to prove she's just "one of the guys." Kate has a particularly easy rapport with Luke (an almost unrecognizably gruff Jake Johnson), a quick-witted brewer.

Whether this office flirtation will develop, or if there is any shared history there to begin with, is part of the fun of watching these two together. It takes us a few minutes to parse the relationships in the film, making each reveal a nice dramatic wrinkle in the story. When Kate first arrives at the home of her boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston), we don't know if they live together or if things are much more casual, which turns out to be the case. During an event at the brewery we meet Luke's serious girlfriend Jill (Anna Kendrick), a much more type-A personality than he is. Things become complicated after the couples take a weekend trip to Chris's cabin as Luke and Kate continue to grow closer.

Drinking Buddies, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson

While it is apparent that there was improvisation in the film, you would never guess that the actors were working solely from an outline. Improv can be great for capturing spontaneity and allowing for moments that feel more authentic than any scripted or rehearsed moment ever could, but it can also be dangerous unless you have a director (and editor) who really knows how to shape that material. In the wrong hands, scenes can to go on too long, and when you can sense that the actors don't know where the scene is heading, it rings entirely false. Credit goes to Swanberg, who served as both director and editor, for making a film that feels loose without ever being ponderous or phony.

So often in films we're shown the extremes: people who are meant to be together and people who clearly should not. Someone is unhappy for a reason, someone's significant other is clearly wrong for them, etc. But life isn't always like that, and it's rare that a film explores attraction when it's not necessarily acted on. Relationships are hard. Our biology is essentially wired to be completely destructive to monogamy and, without giving away exactly how things end up, "Drinking Buddies" does a great job of exploring that friction.

Drinking Buddies

Wilde and Johnson have such crazy palpable chemistry together that simple scenes of drinking, playing cards and joking around become filled with the suspense of whether or not they're going to make a move on each other. It helps that the pair are also really funny, delivering off-the-cuff remarks that are at times laugh out loud funny. Cinematographer Ben Richardson ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") gives the production a nice intimate feel which looks light years away from the uglier digital productions of just a few years ago.

Like several of his contemporaries who have recently made the jump into starrier casts and more polished productions (The Duplass Brothers with "Cyrus" and "Jeff Who Lives At Home," Ry-Russo Young with "Nobody Walks" and Lynn Shelton with "Your Sister's Sister" and "Touchy Feely"), Swanberg too has by all accounts turned a corner with his latest, winning over even critics who had previously written him off. While it's not anything earth-shattering, anyone who enjoyed those films is likely to find much to like about "Drinking Buddies" as well. [B]

This article is related to: Drinking Buddies , Joe Swanberg, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates