The closing night screening of Drinking Buddies as part of the Possible Worlds Film Festival was aptly capped off with pre-drinks (thanks to sponsors 4 Pines and Wild Turkey) and the announcement of the best American and Canadian film winners, as voted by this year’s jury. Passionately put by our presenter, it’s about fighting to bring back the social element to viewers who aren’t satisfied with small screens and low definition downloads. It was also an opportunity to take in Director Joe Swanberg’s handiwork, an incredible talent whose twelve features have never seen an Australian cinema, outside of this forum. After soaking up his light-hearted, brilliantly improvised, stimulating romantic dramedy, it’s a shame to think of what Australian audiences are missing out on.
Drinking Buddies focusses on the simplest premise, the potentially romantic relationship budding between two good friends Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), who work in a Chicago brewery. Judging by their playful flirting and how well they get on, it seems like they’re made for each other, except Luke is discussing marriage with his girlfriend of six years Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Kate is shacked up with music producer boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston).
Looking back plot wise it’s surprising how robust the experience feels, considering that the film essentially puts a magnifying glass over the interactions between two couples and is built on dialogue, rather than a lot of action or events. Whilst it’s full of fun snappy one liners, really, it would’nt be as wonderful as it is, without the amazing script execution that its actors bring to the table. Swanberg’s improvisation philosophy seems to have really paid off in this regard, performances feel so realistic and natural that it’s easy to be enveloped in the story and relate with each character. It’s not just about talking either, some of the most rollicking scenes that had the audience in tears of laughter, were delivered without a sound.
Wilde is excellent in this film, the laid-back, hard partying character she plays really suits her and there is a humourous sibling mentality in the rough housing and teasing between her character and Johnson’s. Kendrick also pulls her weight, delivering this cringing entertaining awkwardness with Livingston, that most people who have an attraction for someone who isn’t their partner, may find all too familiar. There are some memorable scenes namely Luke and Jill’s uncomfortable marriage discussion and the closing scene, which may result in varying levels of satisfaction with audience members (I found it fitting).
Please note there’s a lot of beer drinking in this movie. Morning, noon and night, at work, at home, at someone else’s home, at the pub, at work the next day, it’s not surprising that by the end, viewers may develop an overwhelming desire to head straight to the local after. Capped off with a well chosen soundtrack of brilliant indie artists Drinking Buddies is a crafty gem of a film which cleverly analyses the quirks of being human, struggling with temptation and the fun in being perfectly imperfect.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 90 minutes
Drinking Buddies screened as part of the 2013 Possible Films Film Festival in Sydney.