Drinking Buddies writer/director Joe Swanberg is prolific – he had three releases in 2013 (one of which was Drinking Buddies) and he’s directed two more features and one episode of a TV series since then. Clearly these are his slow years considering the fact that he finished seven features in 2010. All this to say that he works a lot and he works fast which suits (or influences) the kind of movies he makes – mostly talky, built around relationships—that don’t necessarily go anywhere fast.
In Drinking Buddies, the very indie Swanberg ropes in less indie talent – Olivia Wilde (House, Cowboys and Aliens, Tron:Legacy) , Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air, Pitch Perfect), Ron Livingston (Office Space, Swingers, Band Of Brothers) and Jake Johnson (New Girl, 21 Jump Street) to play two sets of couples whose dynamics are explored in a leisurely manner at their workplace and on a weekend trip in the outdoors.
Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) work at a brewery where the day is spent making beer, and involves after-work parties where the drinking continues. In fact, there is rarely a scene where someone isn’t drinking/getting someone else a drink/making a drink. This doesn’t translate into a lot of boozy behavior, but it’s a point worth noting. Back to Kate and Luke – they share an easy camaraderie, with a hint of attraction that is left unexplored because they are both in relationships with other people. Her with Chris (Livingston), the more staid, older man. Him with the sweet, grounded, wholesome teacher Jill (Kendrick). Conversation over beer turns into a weekend trip where the couples hang out and realizations are arrived at.
I don’t want to give too much away, mainly because not much happens by way of plot in the film. The few things that do happen should be revealed while you watch the film, not in a review. The basic premise is interesting because the attraction between people who aren’t together is always more exciting (on screen) than that of a well-settled couple. Everyone has an easy air, and it’s all fun and games. Problem is, this gets tedious after a while. You wait for the next level, but the film just coasts along until the last third where the dynamics change and a new status quo is reached. The end is handled deftly – no melodrama, just a few effective scenes and the message is delivered.
Final Analysis: If you’re okay with watching not much happen except attractive people going about their business for 90 minutes, you should be fine. It’s not a hardship and it has it’s moments, it’s just less activity than I was expecting.
My advice: Rent this one. You can watch it and multi-screen at the same time, and you won’t miss much.