Olivia Wilde stars as Kate in Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies is one of those films that either works or it doesn’t. I feel like there isn’t an in between. It is oddly paced, featured very natural conversational dialogue, and characters that are relatable, the film is something that is unique but oddly refreshing in the pool of comedies.

The film stars Olivia Wilde as Kate, a manager at a brewery with her friend, Luke (Jake Johnson), who spend their days drinking beer and enjoying life with friends. This is what works so well in the film, this sense of relatability that these characters have. You feel like you could sit down and have a drink with Kate or Luke and have a good time, if not with them, you have similar friends or people you spend time with that share their personality traits. This is a compliment to the acting of Wilde and Johnson who become so likable and relatable in the film.

While it may seem like nothing is going on, the story centers around these two friends and their significant others. Luke is with Jill (Anna Kendrick) and they are moving closer to marriage with Jill pushing more than Luke. Kate is in the middle of a relationship with Chris (Ron Livingston) and has hit a crossroad as to whether they will move forward or break apart.

The story is solid with complications coming between both couples following a trip to the woods to visit Chris’ cabin but outside of that there is nothing new story wise. It is a pretty atypical rom-com but what sets it apart from others is the characters. Kendrick continues her classic charm that has snagged her roles lately and plays off the rigged Johnson well.

Wilde (left) and Johnson (right) show that they have some serious acting chops as both have risen with recent roles, Johnson in Safety Not Guaranteed and Wilde with Drinking Buddies.

Swanberg does an average job directing but doesn’t break the mold. It wasn’t as clever as Safety Not Guaranteed, an indie flick that came out last year that blew me away with how well directed it was. He shows a competent level but never really pushes the mold but it works as it gives the film a more natural feel. It isn’t about the directing, this film is built off the writing and acting and both show up.

The music also adds to the mood with a very indie rock based soundtrack. The film feels small in all aspects but I found that to be refreshing and quaint as we tackled the issues of the characters. Kate and Luke have been friends for a long time and have that almost too friendly repour among them. This tension that mounts throughout the film as to will they sleep together or become a couple or not is what drives the second half. The problem I had with it is that I felt like once we actually scratched the surface of Luke the movie ended. Kate was relatively scoped out. A somewhat broken person she was a career driven individual who struggles to keep a relationship due to her lifestyle and personality. I never really could decipher Luke’s character and that bugged me because I liked him.

Drinking Buddies is a solid comedy that makes you feel right at home. The performances are great with Wilde standing above the rest. I liked what I saw from Swanberg and hope to see more similar features from him in the future.



2 thoughts on “Review: Drinking Buddies

  1. Good review Zach. The acting is great, and also feels natural, making every character’s decision, action, or piece of dialogue, feel as if you’re listening to real people just be themselves. Which also makes it more enjoyable, because they also happen to be very entertaining people to listen to and be around.

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