Drinking Buddies Screen 18 articles

Drinking Buddies

2013

Drinking Buddies Poster
  • Drinking Buddies gestures in the direction of conventional romantic comedy, but the ending is grindingly "ambiguous" and "unsettled." It's pretty clear that all that needs to happen is for both couples to switch partners and then everything'll be jake, but instead we get a series of lugubrious one-on-one scenes in one generic locale after another.

  • ...Drinking Buddies finds Swanberg upgrading his established system for telling intimate, finely detailed stories, working with a bigger budget and some recognizable faces, but the embellishments don't necessarily feel beneficial to his aesthetic. It's therefore not too surprising that the film comes off as a shaky misstep, less precise and cohesive than much of his recent work, as its small, improvisational skeleton struggles to meet the demands of the more ambitious story it's trying to tell.

  • It feels more accessible and tighter than the director’s usual aimless character studies, cast with recognizable stars instead of, say, roommates and friends. Yet it’s still shambling and loose enough to not be mistaken for some rote rom-com. The best thing you can say about the movie is that you couldn’t accuse it of being a sellout—nor would you think it was a Joe Swanberg movie.

  • Desires, expressed or inchoate, are the stuff of romantic comedy, but these characters are so perpetually buzzed that little they say or do carries much consequence. Swanberg insisted that his cast drink real beer while shooting, and it shows.

  • It all feels too slight and carefree, though one of its larger issues is that it's never really that funny or romantic. Plus, Wilde (ostensibly the central character) clearly entered into a 'serious actor exploring her craft' mindset while approaching this one, and while the film is powered by Swanburg's customary brand of flip naturalism, her performance always comes across as a mite try-hard.

  • Joe Swanberg’s camera is docile in this film—instead of doing the cinematography himself, Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild) photographed the film, which may account for the disconnect. The cold camera is afraid of the characters. It’s unfriendly because it can’t be sure of its relationship to them. It doesn’t paw at them like in Swanberg’s earlier films. Did the producers say to Swanberg, “None of that fuzzy stuff, we need a distributor”?

  • Moment-to-moment Swanberg gets a lot of credit from me for letting actors I relate to figure out how to get from point A to point B. But a lot of the time it feels any single scene in a Swanberg movie could be cut at no great loss—setting up a dynamic isn't the same as telling a story, and a lot of those actor's-moments play as variations on the same theme.

  • Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are friends because they are so alike. They are bitter, a bit unstable, and are still developing the skills necessary to be open, supportive partners to another person. They relate to each other. They can read each other. _And this is why they cannot be together._ As Swanberg shows us in their brief romantic interlude, Kate and Luke would destroy each other in a relationship, precisely because they are too alike...

  • While it’s true that many of the tics that came to define Swanberg’s early work are absent here—anybody expecting Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston to bum around naked with their bodies in full view should forget about it now, as the usual mumblecore explicitness has been neutered—the film as a whole feels remarkably true to his style, as if he has not so much clean up his act as discovered a way to integrate it seamlessly into a more accessible package.

  • It’s a little too neat sometimes—Wilde works at a brewery, her wrong-for-her boyfriend is introduced drinking wine—but that just feels like part of the genre, a genre that Swanberg ultimately subverts; it’s a bit of misdirection to lead us to a sweet, unexpected and poignantly naturalistic finale that suggests not that we shouldn’t settle in life but that romantic couplings are complex and require real work—not just a few laughs with coworkers when you’ve had too much to drink.

  • Pivoting largely on this incident—along with a late-night bonfire Johnson and Wilde build on the beach while their partners sleep—Drinking Buddies is not quite Swanberg’s The Loneliest Planet. But it’s almost certainly the prolific mumble-maker’s subtlest film, structured around its characters’ reluctance to act on (or even speak of) obvious feelings.

  • This new film feels like a minor breakthrough. If the previous movies were some kind of self-homeschooling, the loose, human feeling in Drinking Buddies is like a lesson learned. (He's only 31.) ...Wilde is something to behold as a belching, mopey slob. I've never considered her fully human, but this movie has made me change my mind.

  • ...It's easy to imagine that, as Swanberg's films expand in scope, the crisis his characters face, the crucial question--can my plaid, my organic coffee, and my iPod survive my larger life crisis?--will become a more and more resounding issue, until it's almost deafening. This is a moving, coherent film that could communicate to viewers at any point in the coolness spectrum--the question is, how far is Swanberg willing to depart from that frame of reference to tell a story?

  • Swanberg is not so much kowtowing to romcom convention as putting great care into crafting something idiosyncratic, sneakily intelligent—and totally disposable. The result is a defiantly minor work that doesn’t skimp on the post-Facebook angst that has characterized his best films.

  • The director has cited 1970s landmarks such asBob & Carol & Ted & Alice as influences and it shows; the images are alive and wonderfully open, and you can sense the assurance of a guiding hand directing your attention to the necessary details. The resonances and dissonances of the filmmaker's earliest work often felt accidental, but here the subtext has clearly been actively achieved from scene to scene.

  • A successful gambit by Swanberg, moving slightly more mainstream but holding on to his rough-and-ready quality and lower-middle-class vibe (beer - albeit craft beer - is pointedly preferred to red wine). Heroine is needy, like Katherine Heigl heroines, but also assertive and a bit of a slob, while the film's earthy quality comes through most strongly in the prominence of food and drink (did Katherine Heigl ever eat in her movies?)...

  • Swanberg seems to reinvent his methods and himself with every film; here, he guides his charismatic performers through sparkling improvisations set like gems by perceptive editing, yet, despite the actors’ charm and substance—and the story’s blunt physical practicality—the results have an awe-inspiring abstraction.

  • With dexterity and care, Swanberg illuminates our muddled perceptions of our own relationships. He fixates on the minutiae of hanging out, the stuff of little loves and lies, the feints and thrusts we make in sorting matters of head and heart... Much of this picture's charm comes from the full tangibility of these characters' feelings—the heights of their joy and the depths of their despondency.

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