Fair warning, there are spoilers in this review.
This movie had me at Anna Kendrick. No seriously, “Drinking Buddies” had me there. What can I say, I’m a simple fellow. I knew I wanted to watch it just from that alone. I know that everyone gets all excited about Olivia Wilde, but I’m an Anna Kendrick fan, it stems back to “Up In the Air.” She’s just got that nerdy quality that makes her seem like anyone could just chill, have a beer with her and watch Star Wars. Speaking of beer. I like beer. Beer is good. Caveman like beer. The whole movie revolves around it, which is probably an excuse for the actors to just drink beer the entire time (I realize that it was mostly prop beer). What I was not expecting was to fall in love with the two main characters, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson).
The plot is pretty straight forward. Guy and girl work together, guy and girl like each other but are both in committed relationships and are stuck in that cycle of will-they/won’t-they become more than friends. The movie has a small cast, mostly it’s Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson (“The New Girl” and “Safety Not Guaranteed”), and Anna Kendrick. Ron Livingston plays Olivia’s boyfriend for about a 1/4 of the movie and shockingly Jason Sudeikis is in at as the boss of the brewery (though he is technically not credited in the movie).
Here’s where it gets interesting, writer/director/editor/cameo actor Joe Swanberg didn’t really write much, supposedly. Just an outline, handed it to the actors and they improvised much of their dialog. That’s where writing credits get dicey in this whole indie/mumblecore movement. If the actors improvise the dialog, shouldn’t they get writing credits? Just a musing. I’ve never seen a movie by Swanberg but this is probably the best introduction that one can get and excites me for more from him. It’s well directed, the camera acts more like a fly on the wall and allows the actors to do their thing and within twenty minutes or so, you check out and forget you’re watching a movie.
The trailer, which I never watched and still haven’t:
That’s where it gets good. The actors are fantastic, the awkward pauses, the uncomfortable moments, the goofy humor between Kate and Luke that’s borderline sibling feeling, yet maybe they could be lovers. You really fall for these characters, they’re real. As someone who has watched people go through these types of relationships and as someone who has gone through these relationships, it’s pretty accurate.
Ron Livingston’s character, Chris, feels like his “Office Space” character prior to the hypnotist stuff but living in 2013. He’s kind of pretentious and douchey but overall a nice guy, he drinks wine instead of beer which is how we get a visual cue that he might not be right for Kate. They have separate apartments and when he meets Anna Kendrick’s character, Jill, it’s obvious that they click more than he and Kate. Jill is a character at a crossroads, does she want to stay with Pete, who is older than her, she’s been with him for a long while, or does she want something else, someone who might be more like her, like Chris? During a double date weekend, Chris and Jill kiss awkwardly on a hike. Chris breaks it off with Kate and Jill doesn’t tell Luke. There’s the conflict in the story. How does it all get resolved? It sort of doesn’t.
And even though Jill was kissed by Chris and she certainly doesn’t push him off, she’s not a despicable character, at least not when you hear that she’s been with Luke for seven or so years. She clearly cares about Kate and doesn’t know what to do. By the end, and here’s a spoiler, Kate and Luke fight, gasp, shock, the horror. But that’s not the end, it’s cyclical. They work together, they’re best friends, they might be soul mates, who knows, but they’re not together and if they stay the path their on, it’ll all cycle around again as soon as Kate gets a new boyfriend, Luke gets jealous, rinse and repeat.
The end isn’t what we’re going for in this movie, it’s all the stuff in the middle. It’s all about watching these characters go through life, deal with emotions that they have no clue how to work with, they’re human. We’re them, they’re us. This isn’t really a movie you can check out to. It’s an emotion, character driven story that will make you laugh, upset, frustrated, happy, and exhausted at the end. The movie starts and ends in the same place, but a lot happens along the way and it’s a refreshing movie after a summer of superheroes and alternate dimension Godzilla like monsters.
Olivia Wilde is actually really adorable in this movie, she usually gets turned into a sex symbol in movies and she’s not here. Her acting really gets a chance to shine. Her character Kate is complicated. She’s a bro, she’s a girl with sexual needs, she’s Luke’s friend and ultimately through that, she’s Jill’s friend. She would never do anything to upset that relationship, no matter what she feels for Luke and he the same. Her chemistry with Jake Johnson’s Luke in the movie is evident. Those scenes where their faces are inches from each other are intense, silence filled moments where you are yelling at the screen “JUST FUCKING KISS!”
You know that moment before you kiss someone for the first time and it’s the most nerve wracking, stressful, exhilarating, and hopeful moment ever? That’s exactly how this movie feels. Check it out, it’s got a cool soundtrack too. Lots and lots of vinyl is featured, all three of the main apartments feature a record player and records prominently. It’s available on VOD and in theaters.