Despite using a craft brewery as its central setting, Joe Swanberg’s (V/H/S) “Drinking Buddies” definitely doesn’t result in a hangover. It is a sobering albeit humorous look at the nonsensical realities of romance, love, and drunken hook-ups. Just like a crisp IPA beer on a hot summer day, “Drinking Buddies” is nothing but satisfying.
Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) and Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street) star as two craft brewery employees and best friends. Their characters Kate and Luke have one of those friendships that borders on playfully flirtatious, yet has never amounted to anything remotely romantic. The two might grab beers every night together, but they would never take it any further. Besides, Kate is in love with Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke is ready to get married to Jill (Anna Kendrick). During a weekend trip to Chris’ vacation home outside Chicago, both couples’ relationships are put to the ultimate test.
It becomes immediately apparent that Kate and Chris are nothing alike. They are one of those couples that look good on paper — they are both working professionals, attractive, educated — yet have absolutely no chemistry together. Kate is a fun-loving extrovert that finds burping and farting funny, while Chris is a much more clean-cut, proper introvert.
Kate and Luke, on the other hand, have sustained chemistry throughout the movie. They crack jokes together, eat horribly unhealthy food, and guzzle — and I mean GUZZLE — pint after pint of beer. The two might just be friends, but as we watch Kate and Luke interact, we cannot help but root for them to hook up.
Wilde and Johnson’s quirky on-screen chemistry allows Swanberg’s scandalous characters to remain relatable to the audience. Kate and Luke are absolutely perfect for each other. It’s obvious. But in order to be together, they would have to cheat on their respective significant other.
Swanberg dials back the humor and pumps up the realism whenever cheating is discussed. Cheating isn’t a gag. It’s not fun. It ultimately hurts both parties involved; yet stomping on true love hurts even more.
“Drinking Buddies” is a romantic comedy that actually gets the romantic part right. More often than not, the first person you fall in love with will not be the person you stay with for the rest of your life. Swanberg does not shy away from this topic. He plows right through this difficult subject with a biting wit, talented cast, and an incessant string of hipster-centric songs blaring in the background.
According to this Billy Crystal loving critic, “Drinking Buddies” is the 2013 version of “When Harry Met Sally.” Instead of devolving into a third act cushy comfort cocoon like the 1989 classic does, however, Swanberg offers a much more realistic and proper ending.
“Drinking Buddies” will definitely speak to every American twentysomething that watches it — well, one at the very least.
By David Morris