Movie Review: 'Drinking Buddies' -- 3 stars
Directed by Joe Swanberg
Starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston
Playing at Landmark Sunshine and Nitehawk Cinema, on iTunes and VOD
The prolific indie director Joe Swanberg works with A-listers for the first time in “Drinking Buddies” and the result is a fruitful mix.
Swanberg, best known for mumblecore fare such as “Hannah Takes the Stairs,” is a fervent believer in improvisation. That’s a staple of some comedies, of course, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another American filmmaker who would so willingly employ the technique, which rejects a screenplay with dialogue for the innovations of actors, on dramatic material.
You’d be even harder-pressed to uncover another drama packed with stars like Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick showing off their improvising skills. Movies like this simply don’t exist.
Wilde stars as Kate, who works with Luke (Jake Johnson) at a Chicago brewery. They have a very close relationship and would surely be even closer were it not for the fact that each has a significant other. Kate is seeing Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke dates Jill (Anna Kendrick).
“Drinking Buddies” offers a subtle exploration of these relationships that rejects the usual three-act rhythms and concrete storytelling of such an enterprise. It requires some adjustments on the part of the viewer.
But the movie grabs you once you’ve become attuned to the way Swanberg works and grown familiar with these characters. Filled with relatable performances, the film simply, honestly shows you people living their lives, zeroing in on small moments of truth and the illuminating potential of words left unsaid.