Movie review: 'Drinking Buddies' is an honest portrayal of young adults

For the News-DemocratSeptember 26, 2013 

What It's About

Figuring out what you want in life can take up many minutes, months, even years. With their lives stretched out before them, two young couples get tripped up on the paths they have set for themselves in "Drinking Buddies," a rambling, amiable, unpredictable romantic comedy with surprising insights and winning performances.

Co-workers Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) have a fun time together, but they are attached to significant others -- Kate to Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke to Jill (Anna Kendrick). They might be clueless, but we see their chemistry early on, and soon, it becomes a guessing game of "will they or won't they?"

Performances

The two couples are played by likable stars, so watching them is not a chore. However, the dialogue is all improvised, so there are plenty of tentative moments, long pauses, and searching for the right thing to say -- and that is part of its charm (and its contrivance).

Olivia Wilde, who also produced it, displays a gusto for her real-woman role, and she also has scenen with her real-life fiance, Jason Sudeikis, so that adds a sweet touch. He plays the scatterbrained manager of a micro-brewery.

What Works

Drawn from real life, this film is an honest portrayal of young adults at crossroads, and has such a lived-in appeal. It's as if you are plopped down smack in the middle of these characters' lives.

Writer-director Joe Schwanberg has fashioned an interesting look at romantic foibles, and probes the entanglements that happen because of our choices.

What Doesn't Work

While sincere, the film would have benefitted from a real script. The four stars are nimble performers, with quick instincts and affability.

Yet, it's a compelling slice-of-life, part of the "mumblecore" movement, but effective in many ways.

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Joe Swanberg

Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Jason Sudeikis

Length: 1:30

Rated: R for language throughout

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