This summer of mediocrity and money-train movies has spoiled some of the creativity people like us go to the multiplexes to feed on, but if you dig deep enough to find something real you just might see “Drinking Buddies,” starring three actors who haven’t bit their thumbs to seek out money-making roles with superheroes or sequels.
Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick look a little different in the film directed and written by Joe Swanberg. Wilde plays Kate, a wears-her-sunglasses-at-night character. Johnson plays Luke, a bearded 20-something who cleans beer tanks for a living. Kendrick plays Jill, a darling special education teacher.
Together, the three drinking buddies are caught in the middle of a real kind of love triangle–notably along with a bland Ron Livingston who plays Chris, a tame man who buys any girl he likes a book. They’re caught in the in between college and adulthood, though they’ve been out of school for what we think is a while, and they’re suffering from whether or not to settle down in their relationships. Nobody’s saying it, but they’re all wondering: Am I in this relationship because I love this person or because we’ve been together for so long, or do I love someone else?
The film’s direction and pace is different, not necessarily worse, than what we’re used to, though it admittedly takes a while to get used to the way the movie is shot. It’s probably not fair to call it low quality, but there’s a faint buzzing in the background off all of the scenes in the beer distillery and the lighting is less than good, but besides all of the artsy fartsy nonsense there’s actually something really pleasing about the realism after you get over the fact that this wasn’t shot on a Hollywood set.
We’re thrust into the story and have to learn the characters on the go. Kate and Luke hang out with their work friends and bring along their outsider significant others–for Kate, Chris, and for Luke, Jill. Then, the four main characters go on a cabin trip where all of the awkward tension between all of them is really pushed to the forefront. We see that Kate and Luke were cut from the same cloth, as were Jill and Chris, and that’s drawing.
This is a story about a few wondering individuals who constantly second guess they’re love life because nobody wants to be wrong when they finally pick the guy or girl they’re going to marry. The film portrays that to a T, as each scene is equally as tense as the last. No matter the world we live in, where divorces are commonplace, there’s still room to believe in the dream that you’re only going to get married once.
The film builds up to one of its final sequences during which Luke, who is the main character only for the fact that he’s really the one experiencing the central conflict, decides what he really feels–and the moment is excellent. Just spot on and satisfying.
Not surprisingly, Wilde and Johnson really sink their teeth into their characters, and once again Kendrick is outstanding. The film as a total package isn’t perfect, but its gutsy and original and that makes it a rare rose in this watered down summer.
“Drinking Buddies”: ★★★