Drinking Buddies is out now in Irish cinemas. John Byrne finds out if this company is worth keeping.
If you want a line, this is - in essence - When Harry Met Sally on the razz. But, unlike that celebrated 1989 Rob Reiner movie starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as two opposite-sex pals, Drinking Buddies is a modern, indie take on the will-they, won’t-they, can-they-remain-pals plot that draws similarities (and basically begs for comparisons) between the two films.
Well, for starters, the chemistry between the two main players is as good as the Crystal and Ryan coupling. Olivia Wilde is very well known to an Irish audience, but is probably best remembered globally for her role in House, while co-star Jake Johnson stars in New Girl, one of the most annoying shows on TV these days.
Here they are Kate and Luke, co-workers at a Chicago brewery, and the eponymous Drinking Buddies, and it’s clear from the off that they have an understanding and a friendship that isn't constrained by (and is totally devoid of) sexual tension; it’s almost like early Dawson and Joey in Dawson’s Creek. With beer. She’s tomboy cool and sexy, he’s beardy and more, well, blokey. As well as sharing a workplace, they both love a beverage, playing pool and hanging around having fun with the rest of the brewery crew.
All’s fine, playfully beery and mildly hungover until they agree to go away on a weekend together in the woods with their significant others. Kate's boyfriend is Chris, an older, slightly edgy, pretentious record producer played by Ron Livingston (you may remember him as the intense writer Jack Berger in sex and the city – he’s also in season four of Boardwalk Empire), while Luke's fiancée is Jill, a soft-spoken teacher, played by Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), to whom he is devoted.
As someone who hates spoilers and anything that might – even remotely – take away from a film or TV plot, that’s as far as I go in set-up mode, and will just add that Drinking Buddies is a typically unmelodramatic indie film, well-handled by writer-director Joe Swanberg, the mumblecore king.
If you’re looking for major melodramatics - forget about it. The nearest thing to excitement is when one of the main characters gets a cut hand (and quite a nasty one at that). This is much more subtle and realistic and far removed from your average romantic comedy. No one goes running through the snow or screaming someone’s name (well, not much), and the story rolls along in a normal folk, semi-slacker way.
Highly enjoyable, with fine performances from all concerned, Drinking Buddies never really gets anywhere or resolves anything. It’s kind of carefree, but not flippant either. Nice work, folks. Beers all-round.