Director: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston
Most of us have been in a serious relationship. Most of us have had a crush on a friend. And most of us have had a little too much alcohol. Drinking Buddies is a film that takes all these rites of passage, clashes them together, and emerges with a story that is more realistic them most you'll see in a lifetime, let alone this year. It may have a plot that revolves around beer, but you don't have to be a connoisseur to understand that the driving force behind this movie is love, not Budweiser. The pursuit of love, the confusion of love, the loss of it as well; these are the themes that come across so clearly in this stellar film and leave you feeling wrung out and perhaps ready for a drink.
Kate & Luke are best friends. They work together at a small Chicago brewery; he making beer & she in public relations. They share a love for their craft, a passion for alcohol, and a hidden desire for each other. On the surface they are just friends. They love to goof off together, tease one another, and hang out as buddies. But their perfect friendship can't hide the chemistry that exists between them, the love they feel for each other that may seem brother/sister at times but is something much more. This undertone really isn't a problem since they both are happy with their significant others and both have plans for the future. But when the couples begin to double date, problems emerge that threaten to shift the delicate balance in all their relationships.
But it's not Kate & Luke who cross the line, it's their partners. Jill & Chris, the SOs, hit it off when all four are on vacation together. Perhaps this was brought on by the obvious attractive between their mates, but for whatever reason it is they who kiss, they who start the catalyst that will tear down the comfortable situation that they all have built. And when the truth is revealed, Kate & Luke begin to look at themselves in a new light, putting their friendship to the test. As a free woman, Kate makes Luke jealous in ways he doesn't understand and his pressure on her confuses them both in its fervor and strangeness. Being just drinking buddies worked when they both had someone to go home to, but now that the door is cracked open their friendship might not survive the change.
I can't recall ever seeing a movie that felt more real. It was as if I was a voyeur to a true story, a simple one that has been played out countless times all over the world. But instead of seeming boring or overdone, the story just felt true, an account of what happens every day in the world of single people looking for love under complicated circumstances. Relationships don't come into existence inside a bubble; the outside influences your decisions, your reactions, your ultimate conclusions, and often what you get is not what you set out to find. This film does an excellent job portraying real life and not once making it seem dramatic, special, or forced. It is simply a love story, two friends whose lives are entwined and whose feelings are complicated, and that's about as real as it gets.
The acting was, in large part, what created the amazing believability of the film. The film was not scripted, the dialogue was all improv. Each actor knew what had to happen in any given scene but was given free reign over how their character would come to that conclusion. As a result, the lines were natural, the conversations real, making the film that much more honest & easy to swallow. The actors were able to bring a little of themselves to the story, to create their characters according to the moment, to feel the emotion rather than force it. Not every actor could have pulled this off, and these names aren't the most impressive in the industry, but each one produced a solid role without a weak link and without becoming lost in the off-the-cuff process.
Olivia Wilde could be looked at as the main character, and if so she was a great one. She was the perfect mix of hot & average, unattainable & one of the guys. She was likeable with some demons and the fact that her past was never talked about just added to the mystery of her personality. Jake Johnson was probably the best among strong actors. He was lovable, relatable, easy to root for, and totally believable as, in a way, the hero of the plot. Both Anna Kendrick & Ron Livingston were partly side characters, but they were integral parts to the plot and were both excellent at doing their job & at creating realistic moods as backdrops for the action. All the actors worked well together, were part of a film that felt uncomfortably real at times, and surprised me with their talent in an unusual but phenomenal style of film-making.
Video: With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the video quality is very high. The film was shot using a Red Scarlet camera and has a hand-held camera feel. The picture is at times slightly shaky, but this adds to the realistic quality of the film and does not detract from the quality of the video.
Audio: The film was recorded in Dolby Digital with the only option being English 5.1. There are three subtitle choices though: English SDH, Spanish, or none. The audio quality of the film is fine, with good balance and no noticeable errors. The simple use of music in the film is solid but doesn't boast a soundtrack that warrants any attention.
Extras: There are a ton of extras on the disc. Commentary with Writer/Director Joe Swanberg, Producer Andrea Roa and Producer Alicia Van Couvering is just that, lasts the length of the film, and can be turned on or off. Deleted Scenes/Outakes with Director Commentary is a series of bonus footage with the option to turn commentary on or off. Interviews is a set of four interviews with the stars of the film, which can be watched separately or all together. AXS TV: A Look at Drinking Buddies is an in depth look at the film, like an extended trailer with short interviews. All Things Drinking with Director Joe Swanberg and "Drinking Made Easy" Host Zane Lamprey is a sit-down conversation about the film between the two. Behind the Scenes at Revolution Brewing is a look at the real-life brewery used in filming. There are also trailers for Drinking Buddies, Prince Avalanche, Mr. Nobody, Syrup, and Bad Milo.
Highly Recommended. I was blown away by this film. The simplicity of the story paired with the unique style of filming created a movie that is incredibly authentic & natural. Never did I feel like I was watching Hollywood or that my emotions were being tampered with intentionally. All the action & the acting was genuine & believable, creating a story that I loved watching and would watch again right away. The video quality was great, the audio fine, and the extras plentiful. Drinking Buddies is an excellent film done in a refreshing style that stands out in a great way.