December 5, 2021

Film Review: Love and Alcohol Pair Up in Drinking Buddies­­­


Director Joe Swanberg’s latest film proves he’s more than a one-trick pony.

When coming up with the idea that would become Drinking Buddies­­­, director Joe Swanberg said he wanted to make a film that was an adult comedy but wasn’t in the Hollywood format. If you’ve seen any of Swanberg’s previous work, the director is never anywhere near Hollywood.

Drinking Buddies­­­ is classic Swanberg at his best. Reading between the lines and inferring from implication is what makes the smallest moments on film seem so monumental.

Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (New Girl’s Jake Johnson) work together at a microbrewery where the same amount of time is spent flirting as brewing. The two would be a perfect fit for each other if they weren’t in other relationships until a long cabin weekend with the two couples sends everything adrift. Unlike what you normally see in films, Drinking Buddies­­­ leaves more questions than answers and an ending that is easily digestible.

Still, the best thing about this film is how disturbingly real it is. The laughs get stuck in the throat and the drama is a little too close for comfort but it’s that visceral tension that gives the film life. Swanberg’s technique of cinema verite and improvisation allow the story to reach levels of depth that the conventional romantic comedy never could. Taking a break from being eye candy, Wilde shows she is more than just a pretty face. It’s refreshing to watch an actor stretch out and be rewarded for it. Obviously, Wilde is achingly gorgeous but it’s the fear, loneliness and tension that keep your eyes on her. The same could be said for Johnson. Known more for being the object of Zooey Deschanel’s affection in New Girl, Johnson still plays the romantic lead but is able to also convey anger and jealousy to his ceaseless charm. S­­­­wanberg, along with Wilde and Johnson, has made a film that goes above and beyond what is expected of it. A more than welcome surprise as audiences begin to get ready for award season.