“Drinking Buddies” Challenges The Way We See The Rom-Com


Generally speaking when I hear the term drinking buddies, I imagine a bunch of frat guys tossing back a few cold ones, not romance or the analysis of human relationships, but sometimes the things you don’t expect are the most rewarding.

Such is the case with director Joe Swanberg’s new film, “Drinking Buddies.” When you first see the trailer you realize it’s definitely not a movie about a bunch of frat guys. From the trailer, it seems more like your run of the mill rom-com, but it’s not that either.

“Drinking Buddies,” follows Kate (Olivia Wile) and Luke’s (Jake Johnson) complicated friendship. The two work at a Chicago microbrewery, Kate as the office manager/PR person, while Luke helps brew the beer. It’s basically all beer all the time and the two of them spend their days flirting, telling each other snarky jokes, and getting into all kinds of misadventures. They have so much chemistry you instantly want them to get together. But … oh no, there’s an obstacle, they are both completely unavailable. Luke has been with his live in girlfriend Jill (Anna Kendrick) for six years and Kate is getting serious with an older (and slightly awkward) gentleman named Chris (Ron Livingston).

Everything is setup to make us believe Luke and Kate are just the unfortunate victims of a terrible mismatch and that somewhere down the line they’ll somehow ditch their partners and end up together. When the two couples go on a weekend trip to Chris’s family cabin you think maybe there might even be a partner swap and everyone will end up with their perfect mate without anyone getting their feelings hurt (hey this actually happened in “I Give It A Year”).

Unfortunately, Swanberg is not the type to give us what we want in perfect little packages. As soon as we think we know exactly what’s going to happen between Kate and Luke, things start going in a drastically different direction. The dynamic of the story changes so much it may actually make some people angry enough to dislike the film.

The thing is, the more time the Kate and Luke spend together the more we see that maybe they’re a little too much a like. They are carefree and like to have a good time, but they don’t have a lot of life skills and can be a bit selfish. There’s a point in the movie where you start to realize Kate isn’t always the nicest person. That point is when Luke is helping Kate move into her new apartment and he cuts his hand with a nail. Considering the amount of chemistry the two have throughout the movie you’d think Kate would rush to tend to Luke’s wound, but instead she gets grossed out and has to leave the room. Her behavior in that one scene makes you wonder how and why you ever hoped Luke would leave Jill to be with Kate.

The second half of the film really is a testament to the acting skills of all the people in this film. Wilde especially, shows a range we haven’t seen in her past films. Her ability to go from a fun and beautiful one-of-the-guys type to an incredibly flawed and complex person is remarkable. Kendrick also does a great job with Jill and showing us the importance of the relationship between her and Luke.

What’s even more impressive about this film is that Swanberg did not give his actors a script. He simply told them what he wanted out of each scene and everyone just went with it. The result is a very naturalistic and casual feel throughout the film. For some it might seem a little too scattered and slow, but it’s refreshing to see a film that actually plays out like real life.

“Drinking Buddies,” opened in New York on Aug. 23 and will continuing opening in limited theaters through October.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>