Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
Luke (Johnson) and Kate (Wilde) are co-workers at a Chicago brewery that get on extremely well; their subtle flirting with each other both at work and on nights out suggest an obvious attraction. However he is in a long term relationship with Jill and the two are discussing marriage, while Kate (Kendrick) is in a relationship with the introverted Chris (Ron Livingston). After the four go on a weekend retreat obvious attractions between both alternate couples seem apparent, but sometimes obvious attraction is not enough and hearts can still be broken in less obvious ways.
The concept does not exactly sound original does it? Well it most certainly isn’t and I must confess that at first when our four characters go on a holiday retreat together, that and a few other slightly contrived narrative developments suggest Drinking Buddies to be a rather lame and pointless film. However after that in its second two thirds emerges as a very human and heartfelt drama, dealing with its subject with authenticity and subtlety.
Though marketed as a comedy, Drinking Buddies is never a laugh out loud film and never intends to be, the dialogue and situations predominantly being naturalistic and believable. The dialogue is largely improvised and this shows with all four actors giving suitable understated performances and sharing great chemistry which of course was always going to be vital for Drinking Buddies to work.
The dialogue-heavy style may not appeal to all, but serves as a subtle but effective examination of a situation that in the grand scheme of things may not seem particularly dramatic, but to these four characters is the most important thing in their life. Again this importance is never overstated, but examined with a subtlety that ultimately makes it all the more powerful and compelling to watch, and thankfully avoiding obvious cliché. True thoughts and feelings are often explained in subtext or body language, while the character says something that is the complete opposite and it is in this intelligence that makes Drinking Buddies a compelling drama with believable characters.
We are also not asked to judge these characters; they are flawed and demonstrate the faults that make us all human, to dislike them for that would be surely hypocritical of us. Olivia Wilde gives the best performance I have personally seen her do, and though I find it a little hard to believe that someone who drinks as much beer as she does and stay so skinny, she truly lives and breathes her character. While the chemistry Wilde shares with Johnson feels truly genuine and believable.
Admittedly some scenes feel drawn out and a little repetitive at times, enhancing the realism but occasionally trying the viewer’s patience. Otherwise Drinking Buddies emerges from a slightly contrived start to emerge as a subtle but effective drama with truly believable characters.
Despite the generic premise, thanks to a naturalistic approach and a great cast sharing believable chemistry, Drinking Buddies emerges as an engaging drama that deals with its subject in a subtle but effective, and ultimately moving way.