Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Drinking Buddies

A small-scale story about romantic communication failures, indie auteur Joe Swanberg’s latest lacks for forceful drama but compensates with an inviting, off-the-cuff atmosphere and strong lead performances.

Aug 22, 2013

-By Nick Schager


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1383568-Drinking_Buddies_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Pints of beer are the constant amidst ever-shifting circumstances for two couples in Drinking Buddies, a relatively high-profile effort from prolific indie auteur Joe Swanberg (LOL, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Uncle Kent) that retains the director’s interest in interpersonal communication breakdowns.

Co-workers at a Chicago brewery, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) share a friendship that’s infused with more than a whiff of flirtatious tension. Theirs is a bond that seems predicated partly on an unspoken but mutual sexual interest in each other, even though platonic interaction is all that’s allowed given that Kate is dating Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke is involved with Jill (Anna Kendrick). Such commitments, however, still don’t quell sparks from firing between Kate and Luke, considering that their current paramours come across as far from ideal fits, with Chris the liquor-and-books square to Kate’s beer-and-pool party gal, and Luke the bearded hipster goofball to Jill’s more reserved, go-home-early nice girl. From the get-go, a partner swap seems preordained.

Drinking Buddies embraces this schematic set-up as a vehicle for spending time with its characters, as well as a means of exploring how silences, sideways glances and casual asides reveal roiling emotions concealed just beneath respectable façades. For the most part, those feelings remain hidden as the four hang out, first at a party organized by Kate at the brewery, and then later during a weekend getaway at Chris’ family cabin—that is, until Chris and Jill go for a hike and picnic that ends with a kiss, and Kate and Luke stay up all night gabbing by a beach fire. During these early goings, Swanberg contrasts his characters with a tad too much obviousness, cutting back and forth between his protagonists in order to juxtapose the no-fun stuffiness of Chris and Jill with the boozy card-playing coolness of Kate and Luke. Fortunately, those clear-cut comparisons prove far messier once Chris dumps Kate, Jill leaves town on a trip to Costa Rica, and the frisson between Kate and Luke is given room to slowly blossom out in the open.

Though nothing immensely consequential happens during the course of Drinking Buddies, Swanberg crafts a conversational atmosphere that compensates for a lack of momentous drama. Much of that is due to his handheld camerawork—tracking alongside or behind walking characters, and panning back and forth between people in conversation, his cinematography assumes the POV of a silent, unseen participant in the revelry at hand. Despite the frequent (and somewhat grating) use of an indie-rock-ballad soundtrack, Swanberg’s off-the-cuff aesthetics do much to invite one into the action as a confidential spectator on private events. That warm, hospitable mood is also aided by natural lead performances that capture the painful, confusing awkwardness born from being forced—because of situations or more basic rules of decorum—to not act upon pressing desires. The result is an empathetic dramedy of social discomfort in which the unspoken is often what most needs to be said—at least until a canny final sequence of wordless détente which also proves that, for a friendship’s lasting health, silence is sometimes golden.


Film Review: Drinking Buddies

A small-scale story about romantic communication failures, indie auteur Joe Swanberg’s latest lacks for forceful drama but compensates with an inviting, off-the-cuff atmosphere and strong lead performances.

Aug 22, 2013

-By Nick Schager


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1383568-Drinking_Buddies_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Pints of beer are the constant amidst ever-shifting circumstances for two couples in Drinking Buddies, a relatively high-profile effort from prolific indie auteur Joe Swanberg (LOL, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Uncle Kent) that retains the director’s interest in interpersonal communication breakdowns.

Co-workers at a Chicago brewery, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) share a friendship that’s infused with more than a whiff of flirtatious tension. Theirs is a bond that seems predicated partly on an unspoken but mutual sexual interest in each other, even though platonic interaction is all that’s allowed given that Kate is dating Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke is involved with Jill (Anna Kendrick). Such commitments, however, still don’t quell sparks from firing between Kate and Luke, considering that their current paramours come across as far from ideal fits, with Chris the liquor-and-books square to Kate’s beer-and-pool party gal, and Luke the bearded hipster goofball to Jill’s more reserved, go-home-early nice girl. From the get-go, a partner swap seems preordained.

Drinking Buddies embraces this schematic set-up as a vehicle for spending time with its characters, as well as a means of exploring how silences, sideways glances and casual asides reveal roiling emotions concealed just beneath respectable façades. For the most part, those feelings remain hidden as the four hang out, first at a party organized by Kate at the brewery, and then later during a weekend getaway at Chris’ family cabin—that is, until Chris and Jill go for a hike and picnic that ends with a kiss, and Kate and Luke stay up all night gabbing by a beach fire. During these early goings, Swanberg contrasts his characters with a tad too much obviousness, cutting back and forth between his protagonists in order to juxtapose the no-fun stuffiness of Chris and Jill with the boozy card-playing coolness of Kate and Luke. Fortunately, those clear-cut comparisons prove far messier once Chris dumps Kate, Jill leaves town on a trip to Costa Rica, and the frisson between Kate and Luke is given room to slowly blossom out in the open.

Though nothing immensely consequential happens during the course of Drinking Buddies, Swanberg crafts a conversational atmosphere that compensates for a lack of momentous drama. Much of that is due to his handheld camerawork—tracking alongside or behind walking characters, and panning back and forth between people in conversation, his cinematography assumes the POV of a silent, unseen participant in the revelry at hand. Despite the frequent (and somewhat grating) use of an indie-rock-ballad soundtrack, Swanberg’s off-the-cuff aesthetics do much to invite one into the action as a confidential spectator on private events. That warm, hospitable mood is also aided by natural lead performances that capture the painful, confusing awkwardness born from being forced—because of situations or more basic rules of decorum—to not act upon pressing desires. The result is an empathetic dramedy of social discomfort in which the unspoken is often what most needs to be said—at least until a canny final sequence of wordless détente which also proves that, for a friendship’s lasting health, silence is sometimes golden.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here