Drinking Buddies is one of the best films of 2013.
It’s important to state that from the beginning because it can be difficult to explain the appeal of Drinking Buddies. In fact, it can be argued that nothing really happens in the film. For 90 minutes, we follow four likable and familiar characters as they drink, talk, flirt, and occasionally fight. In many ways, this is a very funny film but it’s definitely not a comedy. It’s a serious movie that’s notable for lacking any real drama. Instead, it’s a warm and sympathetic portrait of life as it’s lived.
Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde) both work at a Chicago brewery. Luke is an almost stereotypical nice guy while Kate is good at her job but totally neurotic with almost every other aspect of her life. When we first see them on-screen together, it’s easy to assume that Kate and Luke are in a relationship. However, despite being perfect for each other, Luke and Kate are both involved with others. Kate is involved with Chris (Ron Livingston) while Luke is trying to get over his nervousness over the prospect of getting married to Jill (Anna Kendrick). After the four of them go on a camping trip with each other, Kate and Chris break up and Luke is forced to deal with his feelings for both Kate and Jill.
Now, I knew that sounds like the set-up for a romantic comedy, the type where Chris would turn out to be a complete cad and Jill would be so obviously wrong for Luke that the audience would be openly rooting for Luke to dump her so he could get together with Kate. However, and this is what makes this film brilliant, Joe Swanberg isn’t interested in making a film full of romcom stereotypes. If anything, Chris and Jill are both portrayed as being far more sympathetic than either Luke or Kate. (Livingston and Kendrick have an extended picnic scene that should be remembered as one of the best cinematic moments of 2013.)
In the end, Drinking Buddies doesn’t do anything that you expect it to do. Swanberg is less interested in romance and more interested in observing and celebrating the friendship of these four characters. This is one of those unexpected films where every single detail rings true and you end up feeling as if you could hop a plane to Chicago and find any of these four characters living their own lives beyond what the audience has been lucky enough to observe.
How good is Drinking Buddies?
I don’t even drink and I still loved this movie.