Film Review: Drinking Buddies

Copyright: Magnolia Pictures
To me it seems odd to call this film a comedy. Although it does contain many awkward social and romantic moments that are so intense that they are unpleasant to watch, I didn’t experience it as a work of art that tries to entertain in any humorous way. For me, Drinking Buddies is a drama about finding a way of living after the fun of the first third of life has ended. While the party mentality still lingers on, in the background obligations, responsibilities and other changes menacingly start to appear on the horizon.

A bunch of enthusiastic, relatively young people work in a microbrewery. One of them is Kate, who is an organizer, and the other is her best friend Luke, who works a blue collared job.  Both are in stable relationships, but both live a really easy-going lifestyle that includes almost constant beer drinking. They hang out during and after work, and seem like an unusual pairing for friends. After they meet each others better halves, the four of them decide to take a weekend trip to a beach house. The trip changes everything between them. 

Drinking Buddies is superbly written. Joe Swanberg, who also directed it, did an amazing job, mostly with the dialogue and the way all the characters have a more or less closed personality. Also, they are constantly resisting change in one way or the other. A lot of situations in the film are really mundane and ordinary, but Swanberg transforms them in intense anticipation, as if at any moment something catastrophic will occur. His decision to make a film more like a snapshot of several interlocking lives than a fully formed story with a clear beginning, middle and an end will undoubtedly leave some viewers disappointed, but I enjoyed the ever-present ambiguity. I found the unclear atmosphere that lingers between everybody in the film as something that frighteningly resembles reality. 

This doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t communicate any broader message. The idea of drinking beer and having liquor shots in every situation and on every occasion ring really true. In today’s society it’s almost forgettable that alcoholism doesn’t always include that stereotypical image of a hobo with a brown paper bag. Instead, it is something that almost invisibly became a regular way of living, and Drinking Buddies didn’t turn a blind eye to it.

Olivia Wilde excels in the role of Kate. She is gorgeous, and her body looks amazing, yet she manages to present her character as a regular girl. She appears as if she isn’t aware of her good looks and acts as one of the guys. She is vulnerable, full of pride and totally in the dark about her own needs and wants. 

A generation is successfully presented in this film, and it’s not a generation that has a big war, big crisis or anything big. Their feelings are their biggest obstacle and, at the same time, their biggest driving force. Swanberg brilliantly depicted the way they try to fight for themselves, and avoided showing how they win or lose.

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