Too often, romantic comedies leave us feeling crap about our lives. That’s not their intention, but let’s face it – when was the last time you saw a romantic comedy that was actually realistic? Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies tackles that perennial movie question of whether men and women can be just friends with an intensely real humour and honesty that is a refreshing break from Hollywood’s happy-endings addiction. It’s awkward, it’s sometimes cringe-worthy and there are some really crappy moments. It’s basically a film about your love life.
A film this character-driven needs a strong cast, and Drinking Buddies prospers with funny and believable performances from the 4 leads. Jake Johnson (New Girl’s Nick) and Olivia Wilde (Rush, House M.D) play Luke and Kate, co-workers at a trendy Chicago brewery who are hovering around that awkward flirty-but-just-friends line. They seem perfect for each other and there’s some pretty obvious sexual tension going on. There’s just one problem – neither of them are single.
We’re almost pre-destined to resent their respective partners, and Ron Livingston (Sex and the City) plays Chris as a pretty unlikeable, uptight and older boyfriend for Kate. Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air) plays Luke’s unofficial fiancée Jill, and strikes that Kendrickian balance between awkward and lovable. Drinking Buddies follows the friendship between Luke and Kate, which for the first half hour seems little more than a cover for their flirtation.
This is a film that actually shows life like it really is. It’s realistic in the way conversation and banter is shown – sometimes the characters talk over each other, and it really seems like they’re responding to each other, rather than to lines on a script. It’s realistic in showing how much these 20/30-somethings drink – they’re basically functional alcoholics working in a micro-brewery. It’s realistic in showing that even the most loving of relationships has its dramas, and that not all friendships can last forever. It’s realistic in that all the characters have flaws, and Wilde’s performance as the fractured, imperfect Kate is perfect.
There are a whole host of reasons this movie might be recommended to you – if you’re a New Girl fan, you’re hot for Olivia Wilde, it’s got a killer soundtrack – I’m simply going to recommend this if you’re looking to laugh and cringe and experience relationship life on screen as it is in real life. Drinking Buddies has laughter, banter, blood, tears and above all lots of beer. It’s a superb and sophisticated film that tackles the most unsophisticated of subjects – love.