Kate and Luke are best friends who work together at a Chicago craft brewery. They mask their massive attraction to each other as they spend their days flirting and joking while they quietly fall in love. Should they move their relationship forward? That could be tricky, given that they’re both in relationships with other people!
Early reviews for this film have lauded Drinking Buddies as one of Olivia Wilde’s best performances to date – and they’re right. Olivia plays Kate, a fun-time party girl on the outside and complete mess on the inside, with a nuanced nod to both. Kate eats up being the only woman working in the male-dominated brewery – the fact that she can match the guys pint for pint (and then some) doesn’t hurt either. But the biggest stir is Wilde herself, and the fact that she’s more than a pretty face. (Gasp!) Yep, this woman can act – and can act quite well. (Read Dr. Anne Helen Petersen’s fascinating article on fetishizing Olivia’s taste and class versus her ability and hotness for some extra credit.) All the more impressive? The majority of the dialogue is improvised, proving Olivia can think on her feet.
She can also think on her hands. She’s a talented multi-tasker! [Photo Credit]
That said, just because one can come up with lines out of his or her ass (I’m feeling eloquent today) doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be compelling. Olivia’s character Kate stands toe-to-toe with some of the best, including New Girl’s Jake Johnson as coworker/crush Luke, Oscar-nominated Anna Kendrick as Luke’s milquetoast fiancé Jill, and the much-adored Ron Livingston as Kate’s distant boyfriend Chris. Secondary roles include Wilde’s real-life fiancé Jason Sudeikis as the brewery boss and horror director Ti West as another brewery coworker named Dave. Given the pedigreed cast, I was expecting rapid-fire quips, red herrings, and lots of laughs. Unfortunately the plot meanders and the promise of the storyline never really comes to fruition.
Just another foam-soaked day at the office.
And that brings us halfway through a six-pack as I point my finger at director Joe Swanberg for the “meh” feeling watching this movie evoked. Swanberg is a darling of the Mumblecore pack whose noted company includes “godfather” Andrew Bujalski, brothers Mark and Jay Duplass (arguably the filmmakers with the biggest impact on the movement), Lynn Shelton and Aaron Katz. Given the summary of Joe’s work, it should come as no surprise that Drinking Buddies relies heavily on naturalistic dialogue, scenes based in real time, and intimate views of friendships. That said, I sure as heck wish he’d bothered to steer the ship in his latest venture. The talented cast is left rudderless as they drift to an unsatisfactory (lack of) destination. Even the clever backdrop of the brewery is underused. (Though us beer fans will get treated to gorgeous shots of the brewing process. Read the New School Beer review for behind-the-scenes info on the brewery itself.) Granted, I’m not a huge fan of the Mumblecore genre, but this still felt like a missed opportunity, even in this sleepy realm.
Hey, I thought beer was the only booze allowed in this flick!
Drinking Buddies entices with humor and a sexy-looking cast, but ultimately falls flatter than a microbrew left too long in the sun.
Take a Drink: every time Kate does (if your liver is ready for a challenge).
Take a Drink: every time Kate and Luke flirt.
Take a Drink: every time Jason Sudeikis steals a scene.
Take a Drink: every time you secretly root for Kate and Luke to breakup with their partners (or root for their partners to break up with them).
Take a Shot: for Kate’s midnight skinny dipping scene.