photo: Burn Later Productions
Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are goofy, fun loving co-workers at a boutique brewery in Chicago. Appreciating pool and beer, alcohol dominates their daily lives, their ritual hangouts highlighting their compatibility. Alas, their love story is hindered because they are dating other people. Kate is seeing Chris (Ron Livingston), a contemplative caring guy, whilst Luke and Jill (Anna Kendrick) are half heartedly planning their nuptials. Notably, it is a couples weekend away which introduces puzzling emotions for all, as we witness the interaction of two pairs of mismatched pods.
This low budget film, the latest by Joe Swanberg, plays like you are looking in on friends, catching subdued moments that have the potential to create drama in real life; on the screen, however, the impact is lessened. The script leaves a loose focus, letting its protagonists shine in a depiction that is relatable. Watching this intimate portrait, as if a bystander, you casually observe the contained flirtations among friends, noticing the uncertainty and indecision that comes with arising awareness of sexual attraction and inner turmoil. Wilde’s good performance softly depicts the vulnerability and nonchalance of her character, as she jokes her way through life. Nonetheless, it is Kendrick’s supporting role that truly captivates. In her scenes, we witness the intriguing persona of someone whose thoughts are difficult to decipher. The minimalist scenes and limited locations create a canvas for the multifaceted characterisation and acting that will entice audiences, as they wonder what could be.
It is a relief for a romantic comedy to offer sharp humor that doesn’t feel scripted; what we get, instead, are lines that, funnily enough, real people might actually say. The film continues to brush aside fears of one dimensional love and it becomes clear that relationship compatibility is not set in stone. The film manages to maintain its integrity, refusing to conform to stereotypes or Hollywood melodrama. The choice to not demonise its characters allows the audience to devour understanding and appreciation for the different facades of human personality. Friction comes through thoughtful turns that, ultimately, demonstrate acute respect for the players.
The story drifts along, leaving a simple observation of the intricacy of relationships in a coy and cute fashion. The film is concrete, giving concise snapshots one has to be thankful for. Drinking Buddies is faithful to what it wants to say, refusing to continue on needlessly past its 90 minutes. It is its neutral depiction that is most favorable, granting the characters the chance to make choices for themselves, as well as allowing the audience freedom to form their own judgements. The realism tenderly displays the essence of compatibility, ignoring the hyperbolic notions of cinematic love and staying true to human nature.