Drinking Buddies is an interesting experimental movie where, outside of a plot outline, was improvised. It doesn’t make for the most energetic film but it at least doesn’t follow the typical Hollywood romantic comedy-drama and the performances by Wilde and Johnson actually aren’t bad. This isn’t something I’d probably watch again, yet I still found it somewhat refreshing and a breezy slice of life flick.
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy
Magnolia | R – 90 min. – $39.98 | December 3, 2013
Directed by: Joe Swanberg
Writer(s): Joe Swanberg (written by)
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Jason Sudeikis
Theatrical Release Date: August 23, 2013 (limited release)
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Interviews, Deleted Scenes/Outtakes, BD-Live
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 28.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
An experimental film, writer and director Joe Swanberg had the cast improvise their lines with only a general key plot points to lead where conversations would go. That’s apparently the hook for the drama-comedy Drinking Buddies but like other experiments, there might be some things to admire but others to criticize.
The story, as it is, focuses on Chicago brewery co-workers Kate (OLIVIA WILDE) and Luke (JAKE JOHNSON), who are good friends though feelings for one seems to want to go beyond the friendship stage. However, Kate is in a relationship with Chris (RON LIVINGSTON) while Luke is involved with Jill (ANNA KENDRICK). So things remain platonic between the pair though things get complicated.
After an excursion to Chris’ cabin in Michigan where the four have a good time playing games and, of course, drinking plenty of beer. As Kate and Luke play some cards and she teases him a bit skinny-dipping in the ocean, Chris and Jill goes hiking where, out of nowhere, the two kiss. Following this trip – where the return home is quiet – Chris soon after breaks off the relationship.
This now leaves Kate wild and free and she drowns her heartbreak in, what else, alcohol to the point she goes home with a fellow co-worker leaving Luke royally pissed and in a foul mood given, ya know, he’s wanted to boink her. Not being a dummy, Kate picks up on this and the two reconcile, though Luke’s infatuation doesn’t subside especially with the temptation being there when Jill takes a trip to Costa Rica, why, I can’t remember nor care to.
Written, or outlined at least, and directed by Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies is not a movie for everybody. Despite clocking in at only 90 minutes, the film does tend to plod along with nothing really happening except for some jealousy going one way and that’s about it. However, for the most part, I actually enjoyed watching some different from the numerous other romantic dramas as well as an atypical ending.
The performances from Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson are particularly strong and when she’s on screen, Kendrick isn’t too bad while Ron Livingston is barely in it and Jason Sudeikis was clearly doing a favor with a credited cameo.
If you like Wilde and are interested in seeing Jake Johnson’s more dramatic side, then Drinking Buddies is worth a rental. On a side note, don’t be fooled by the cover art, while Johnson is cleaned-shaven on both the front and back (pub shots), he has a full-on beard through the entire film, so apparently they did the photo shoot after filming had finished…
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.75/5
I don’t normally comment on the cover artwork but it made me chuckle that Jake Johnson, who has a full-on beard through the entire movie, is completely clean shaven for the front and back covers. Apparently they did the publicity shots some time before or after the filming.
Audio Commentary – Writer/Director Joe Swanberg & Producers Andrea Roa and Alicia Van Couvering
Deleted Scenes/Outtakes (7:15; HD) – Obviously some footage had to be cut down since improv was involved. These are accompanied with optional commentary by Swanberg.
Interviews (12:54; HD) – You can watch them individually or via a Play All option, but you can hear from the four main cast members (Wilde, Johnson, Kendrick and Livingston) chat about the film, their characters and the process. Interestingly enough, and I am obsessed with the cover, these were recorded at the photo shoot as they are at the same location and wearing the same clothing.
AXS TV: A Look at Drinking Buddies (3:15; HD) is a short promotional piece with footage from the trailer followed by some of the same interview footage from above.
All Things Drinking (29:38; HD) – “Drinking Made Easy” host Zane Lamprey interviews Swanberg.
Behind the Scenes at Revolution Brewing (4:15; HD) is a look at the brewery where a good portion of the film was shot.
Theatrical Trailer (2:31; HD)
BD-Live – Yep, there still is a studio that uses this…
Previews – Prince Avalanche, Mr. Nobody, Syrup, Bad Milo
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Drinking Buddies arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Magnolia and shows well in 1080p high-definition. The film, presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio, I found detail levels were nice and clear and colors well balanced. For what it is, and presumably on a low budget, it’s nothing that pops off the screen but it’s still quite good.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track meanwhile doesn’t have a whole lot to offer considering the bulk of the film is dialogue driven, so much I can’t really recall much of a score. So it’s not the most depth-filled lossless track, it’s satisfactory enough as dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and any ambient noise that does pop up, like the screaming angry driver (director cameo), does get the other channels working.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Drinking Buddies is an interesting experimental movie where, outside of a plot outline, was improvised. It doesn’t make for the most energetic film but it at least doesn’t follow the typical Hollywood romantic comedy-drama and the performances by Wilde and Johnson actually aren’t bad. This isn’t something I’d probably watch again, yet I still found it somewhat refreshing and a breezy slice of life flick worth a rental.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.