Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Movies: Drinking Buddies ('Best of 2013' List)

Written and directed by Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies tells the story of a couple of long-time friends that work in an independent brewery: Kate in marketing (played by Olivia Wilde), Luke on the production floor (played by Jake Johnson). At a work party we meet their respective boyfriend Chris/girlfriend Jill (played by Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick), and later the foursome embarks on a weekend woods-cottage getaway.

As in life, vacations can be a litmus test as to the eventual success or failure of a romantic relationship. Initially it seems somewhat peculiar that Kate and Luke are spending so much time together (as are Jill and Chris), considering they're not each other's partners. Then you come to realize: the partnering that is occurring (mostly through emotional bonding, not physical) is the partnering that should be happening, and on some level they're all aware of it.

My initial thoughts were that the film was going to be a failed Mumblecore experiment, where nothing much of note occurs for a couple of hours, after which the film ends and you're left unsatisfied. A funny thing happened though: the characters kept growing on me, helped along by the strength of the performances and the specifics of the predicament. Pleasantly, I found myself at a point where I cared about these characters and their situation, and wanted to continue through to see where they ended up.

To later discover that the entire film, excluding the general plot structure, is improvised is astonishing to me. Kudos.

What's also great:
  • Even though there is plenty of drinking in the film, it's actually not the source of the characters problems (if anything, it's a symptom). I liked the judgement-free presentation.
  • Wilde and Johnson share a terrific on-screen chemistry.
  • The dramatic arc of "moving day".
  • Maybe it's just me, but endings of films these days are getting better and better.

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