Director: Joe Swanberg
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 8/10
Drinking Buddies, the latest from writer/director Joe Swanberg happens to be the first film of his that I have seen. First impressions being…that I need to see more Swanberg films. The film follows co-workers, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), at a Chicago brewery that exhibit a friendship so close, one might mistake them for being together romantically. They spend most of their days hanging out, drinking beer (copious amounts of beer with a smattering of liquor) and joking around, which borders on the line of flirting. Problem being, Luke is in a semi-committed with Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Kate, on the other hand, is dating Chris (Ron Livingston).
Now, the only things I knew about Joe Swanberg were a) he won a debate/boxing match against a critic and b) his films are heavily improvised. Being a huge fan of improvisation I, for one, could not wait to see what Drinking Buddies would yield. Which turned out to be an extremely enjoyable, funny and light-hearted film with real, genuine likeable characters. I was thoroughly entertained the whole time spent with his film and it’s characters, all of whom provide outstanding performances.
Everyone does an amazing job performance-wise, from Olivia Wilde as the free-spirited, just-one-of-the-guys alcohol enthusiast; to Jake Johnson hard-working, hard-playing, laid-back, fun-loving good guy; to Anna Kendrick as Luke’s girlfriend (wishing to be his wife) who always seems to be game for anything, while continuously doing nice things for Luke, not as some statement, but because she genuinely loves him. As always, Ron Livingston provides some comedic awkward moments even though he has little screen time, however, he does make an impact in that small amount of time. Even Swanberg’s road-rage filled cameo provides a good amount of laughs.
The other excellent aspect of the production of Drinking Buddies has to be the editing work of Michael Taylor (The Loneliest Planet and The Comedy). Taylor does an amazing job of cutting scenes, creating, actually enhancing the comedic timing of the film, making Drinking Buddies that much more hilarious. Perfect example, being the alternating scenes of Luke and Kate day-drinking and playing blackjack juxtaposed with Jill and Chris in the midst of an oddly romantic hike and picnic ripe with awkward silences. This sequence is cut so perfectly the editing, itself, is just as funny as the lines and actions delivered by the actors.
There really is not anything bad to say about Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies. Everything works wonderfully together and ends up being an extremely enjoyable light-hearted comedy. The characters and actors who portray them happen to be realistic and naturally likeable and genuine. Drinking Buddies is akin to hanging out with a great group of close friends and I, for one, cannot wait to do it again.