The best thing you can say about Drinking Buddies is something you can say about far too few romantic comedies: there’s a lot of emotional nakedness here. It’s not a conventional romantic comedy, but it hits all the conventional beats in its story about two people who work at a brewery and how they each triangulate with their set of significant others. It might sound complicated, but it’s not. We’ve all been there. You’re with her and she’s with him, and it sometimes bubbles up in the back of your head perhaps something’s backwards. It’s not about hashing it out or making a big complicated deal out of it or turning into some grand dark thing. It’s just happening. Or not. Drinking Buddies has a heady uncertainty in terms of how it unfolds and where it may or may not go.
Director Joe Swanberg — also an actor — gives the actors room to move, to improvise, to exchange gestures, to sit in silence, to just breathe. For better or worse — mostly better — this is a seriously mumblecore movie. Somewhere there’s a producer immensely frustrated that Drinking Buddies isn’t at least ten minutes shorter, because all this extra air is going to confound the people who showed up because Jake Johnson is so funny in New Girl or because Olivia Wilde is hot. But everyone else will be delighted at their effusive effortless chemistry. They both seem to bubble with joy as they work with each other, slipping into an easy back-and-forth as if they’ve been friends all their lives, as if they belong together, as if the camera just happened to be sitting in front of these two people close enough to have their own private wordless language. Johnson is a real natural with this kind of laid back whatthefuckever style, but it’s a delight to see how he carries the more conventionally Hollywood Wilde along with him, almost like slipstreaming. Plus you’ve got the always reliable and eminently watchable Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston providing back-up. And you’ll even get a glimpse of director Joe Swanberg and Ti West, each unharassed by crossbow bolts.
Drinking Buddies is available now on VOD. Watch it on Amazon.com Instant Video to support Quarter to Three.