Drinking Buddies Review
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The improvised films of the mumblecore movement tend to be hit or miss. Some feel surprisingly natural, while others feel awkward and uncomfortable. But director Joe Swanberg’s latest, Drinking Buddies, manages to fall somewhere in the middle, resulting in a naturally awkward improvised dramedy.

Drinking Buddies stars Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson as Kate and Luke, a couple of co-workers at a Chicago brewery. Kate and Luke have an easy-going friendship. They joke together, they eat lunch together, and they go out drinking together after work. Then Kate goes home to her record producer boyfriend, Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke goes home to his long-time girlfriend, Jill (Anna Kendrick).

After the two couples spend a weekend together at Chris’s cabin, everything changes. While Kate and Luke drink beer and play cards, Chris and Jill connect on a different level. And it throws off the comfortable balance of their relationships.

  
 
Drinking Buddies plays out just as real life does: it rambles and meanders, awkwardly making its way from one scene to another. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it wanders off in directions that you don’t expect. But, in the process, it presents the highs and lows, the awkwardness and tension, that come with any relationship.

As is often the case with mumblecore films, the improvised dialogue has its share of both good moments and bad. At times, the characters blather on a little too long; at other times, they’re uncomfortably silent. To be fair, though, it’s all true to life. After all, our own conversations rarely sound as sharp or as witty as they would if they had been taken from the painstakingly-written pages of an Oscar-worthy screenplay. But if you’re not used to the style, it can sometimes be difficult to watch.

Despite the film’s challenges, though, the cast members keep it interesting. For the most part, they’re charming and likable—especially Johnson, who easily steals the show as the scruffy, beer-swilling man-child. Kendrick and Livingston fit in well as the more laid-back, grown-up halves of each couple. But Wilde sometimes takes her role a little too far, turning carefree Kate into a foul-mouthed party girl who should have left her tough-chick attitude back in college.

If you’re not accustomed to the mumblecore style of moviemaking, the slightly uneven tone of Drinking Buddies can be a bit off-putting. But the cast handles the improvised storytelling relatively well. And, in the end, they manage to tell a story that’s filled with beer, takeout, and the often awkward comedy of real life.


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