Friday, September 6, 2013

DRINKING BUDDIES Review - Javi's Take

Directed by: Joe Swanberg
Written by: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Ti West
Synopsis: Two platonic (?) friends' deal with relationships and life while working in a Chicago craft brewery.

For a made up subgenre of movies that is fairly maligned in the movie nerd community, "mumblecore" directors are a really talented bunch. CYRUS was one of the more recent Duplass brothers efforts, and it was pretty effective with its awkward brand drama, and now Joe Swanberg has made a very enjoyable movie in DRINKING BUDDIES. The premise is simple: two best friends, Jake Johnson's Luke and Olivia Wilde's Kate, who have undeniable chemistry, work at a craft brewery deal in their respective relationships.

What's great about this movie is that there is not much that goes on plot wise and in keeping up with the spirit of mumble core, there's a lot of improvisation. Not having had any experience with Swanberg's other movies, I can't speak to his style, much but if this movie is any indication, a marathon of his filmography might need to happen soon. The premise of a movie taking place in a craft brewery is unique and without a doubt, it's the reason a lot of people will come and see this movie. Their chemistry between Johnson and Wilde both as characters and actors is palpable. As Luke and Kate, you see how their constant riffing between each other and very laid back work environment has lead to what is obviously a very affectionate if somewhat questionably platonic relationship.

The driving force behind the movie is romantic relationships that both Kate and Luke are in. One is fizzling out and the other is starting to go to a more serious direction, and it prompts equal but slightly opposite reactions by both of the leads. Luke's girlfriend, Jill (Kendrick), seems like someone that on the surface wouldn't date him. She's much neater and seems to know where her life is headed, and she wants to have Luke as part of that. So when their conversation turns to marriage, Luke doesn't freak out, but he's not overly enthusiastic either, leading to some slightly puzzling friction between them. Jill's character is a bit of a sore spot, because she has infinite patience with Luke when he really doesn't deserve much but given her actions later on, it seems that the patience is just complacency. Kate on the other hand has a slightly frustrated boyfriend in Chris (Livingston), who is a trendy music producer with a cool loft and seems to want something more than what Kate wants to offer. Chris is the most underdeveloped character of the movie and so beyond being a plot decide or an archetype, you never really get a good reason for why he does the things he does.

Where the movie really raises the stakes is when one of the relationships breaks down (won't say whose!!!), and you see the remaining three people having to deal with the fall out. Of course Luke and Kate will be the focus, and that's where a lot of pent up feelings begin to surface. A sideways glance here, a really long hug there, and it all culminates with a climactic encounter that is epic in scope for the two people involved. By the time the movie ends, the film is in a very strange place where nothing really has happened in terms of plot, but the characters are different from when the movie began. The movie's depiction of temptation is a very unique one and it shows that even the people you would never expect can give in to it.

Between the two leads, Wilde steals the show. As Kate, she is able to emote so much with just a look in her eyes, telling Luke much more than he's able to understand or pick up on. Unfortunately, Jake Johnson's not stretching any muscles here, and his performance just seems that his character from NEW GIRL grew a beard and works in a brewery. While there was some depth to his character in SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, there is a legitimate fear that he will end up "playing himself" in future movies and be the next Michael Cera.

DRINKING BUDDIES is a small story with a simple and possibly relate-able plot. The charm of the movie comes from the interactions, and on a personal note, from the constantly filled pint glasses and bottles.

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