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Drinking Buddies– Movie Review

Submitted by on August 30, 2013 – 6:46 pmNo Comment

Drinking Buddies succeeds where so many other “mumblecore” indies have failed, in sparsely depicting the dissolution/resilience of romantic relationships and the frequent futility of trying to communicate. The success rests largely on the naturalistic, largely improvised performances, but also on the direction and editing of Joe Swanberg. The film can be one of those movies where nothing really happens, but Swanberg’s rapid cuts and realistic low-key plot twists keep the “nothingness” lively and interesting. The result is an examination of relationships that seems inevitable, but not predictable, unfolding like a slow motion car crash that is impossible to ignore.

The movie follows Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are great friends, as well as co-workers at a craft brewery and event space. Kate has been dating Chris (Ron Livingston) for several months, and Luke is in a serious relationship with Jill (Anna Kendrick). An often-drunken weekend at Chris’ beach cabin exposes the mutual attractions existing between each relationship, with some expressed more blatantly than others. The fallout from the weekend affects both couples, as each person must decide what they really want.

Swanberg produces a master class in horrible communication, in a highly risky but effective way. Almost every scene is composed of two of the four main characters expressing themselves awkwardly, uncertainly, and sometimes dishonestly, whether the tone is playful or angry. But while similar movies descend into vague and not compelling speeches of halting stutters, the characters in Drinking Buddies keep everything surpressed in quips and glances until a few climactic scenes.

Swanberg’s setting in a brewery seemed unnecessary, and even cliche- all of the attractive, young, Caucasian characters have predictable quirky, not-too-demanding jobs that provide for amazing apartments. The ever-present alcohol just seemed like an excuse for the characters to speak truthfully- but really, in these circumstances, they didn’t need any further encouragement. Then again, it did create greater emphasis when Kate finally let loose on Luke without any Liquid Courage.

Drinking Buddies is not action packed, and ends anti-climactically, but it is one of the most entertaining and sympathetic indies about relationships, self-discovery, and bonfires on the beach that I’ve seen in a while.

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