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Drinking Buddies - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Drinking Buddies
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

Drinking Buddies, as you might expect, is about people who go out drinking a lot. The one relative surprise is that the drinking is incidental; that's not what the movie is about. It's about two young couples who develop criss-crossed attractions.

Honestly, not even that is in itself a particularly compelling concept. To their credit, though, this cast sells it surprisingly well.

The drinking part takes root in the place of employment for two of the characters -- Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work in a brewery, and they have a rapport so comfortable that they appear perfect for each other. They have a physical ease with each other rarely seen in opposite-sex friendships.

They are both in relationships, however. Luke is engaged to Jill (Anna Kendrick); Kate is dating Chris (Ron Livingston). They all finally meet at an office party, and soon thereafter are spending a weekend together in Chris's family cabin.

Luke and Jill's relationship seems pretty solid. Luke's personality is one of unself-conscious free spiritedness; it takes him a while to pick up on signals that could be construed as suspect. Kate is free spirited as well, if slightly more self-consciously. You get the sense that if they weren't in relationships, she'd be all over Luke, but this doesn't seem to be something Luke really thinks about.

Chris, the oldest and most awkward of the bunch, plays a much smaller, but pivotal role. When he wants to go for a hike, Jill is the only one with any interest in joining him. They have a picnic in the woods, and curiously, it's Jill who, deliberately or not, turns the conversation in a direction that leads to them kissing. Chris takes a mature approach to this: he doesn't make any further attempts at Jill, but recognizes his participation in the incident as indicative of his relationship with Kate not working. He breaks up with her, and we see very little of him for the rest of the movie.

There are all sorts of directions the movie could go from here, most of them overdone and clichéd. Writer-director Joe Swanberg avoids virtually all of the traps that this setup seems to lay out, creating a scenario that comes across as realistic, at least in the sense of a world of young couples as mature and self-aware as these guys seem to me. Sure, they say and do juvenile and sometimes stupid things, but thankfully this story subjects us neither to melodramatic screaming matches or emotional manipulation. This is far from a tear jerker.

It's difficult even to pinpoint the genre of this movie. "Comedy-drama" is probably the closest. It's been described as a "romantic comedy" but that only applies if seen through the filter of independent cinema -- which is to say, not particularly funny. It has plenty of amusing moments, and once I laughed out loud. But this is really about the nuances of multi-leveled attractions. It would be nice if more people dealt with similar problems like these characters do. It's nice that there's no particular bad guy here; there's something to be admired in each of them, and something to relate to in each of their mistakes.

That said, there's a certain lack of insight to this story, something about it that feels slightly lacking. They may deal with their problems unusually well, but exactly how interesting are the problems they're having to begin with? Drinking Buddies is plenty engaging, if often rather awkward, while it's happening. But will it be much remembered a week from now? Honestly, probably not.

Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson a booze-crossed almost-lovers in DRINKING BUDDIES.

Overall: B
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