London Film Festival
Film Review: Drinking Buddies - Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde star in improvised 'rom com'
Don't let the marketing fool you, this is no regular rom com - it is much better, writes Francesca Steele
Wednesday 16 October 2013
Drinking Buddies, a film in which most of the lines are improvised, has something in common with reality television in that it strives for a sort of fly-on-the-wall realism. But where reality TV is largely sensationalist and eventful, Drinking Buddies is nonchalant and unhurried.
Not much happens at all in fact - a cinematic feat that is, for the most part, extremely refreshing (and only occasionally just a little bit dull). The latest flag-bearer for the ‘Mumblecore’ movement, a sub-genre of independent films characterised by naturalistic dialogue and low budget values, it may also be the most mainstream, with very bankable stars (Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick) and an appealing romantic chemistry.
Luke (New Girl’s Jake Johnson) and Kate (Wilde, never better than she is here) are co-workers at a Chicago craft brewery. By British standards they drink a fair bit of beer, both at work and at play; by more conservative American standards, they are probably drunkards. In any case, the problem at the heart of the film is not one of health but of the heart. Luke and Kate both have other halves but are clearly infatuated with one another. They laugh, they flirt, they play pool. One wonders, at first, why they have not already “hooked up”. Luke, it turns out, is supposed to be getting engaged, to the sweet and sensible Jill (Kendrick) but when reckless Kate's own relationship, to the debonaire, Merlot-swilling Chris (Ron Livingston), rather predictably fails, the possibility of Luke and Kate finally getting together looms large.
Johnson has said in previous interviews that he suspects Luke and Kate would have made a great couple in their twenties but not in their thirties. Is this what love is, a matter of timing? If this is what writer/director Joe Swanberg (a Mumblecore staple) wants to say, he certainly does so subtly. For much of the film Drinking Buddies meanders seemingly without purpose, its plot as accidental and unpredictable as real life. Wonderfully energetic and persuasive central performances keep it engaging, for the most part, along with a light comic touch and a brutal central honesty about relationships and the way films normally portray them. The familiar romantic comedy set-up in which a boy and girl overcome obstacles before inevitably reaching their happy ending together is a falsehood. If we start at first thinking of these characters in that light it is because we are conditioned by Hollywood to do so.
Can men and women ever be friends? I'm not sure Swanberg gives us an answer but he certainly poses the question in a very interesting way. Drinking Buddies could suffer a little from its marketing, which may suggest to some audiences that it is just a regular rom com. But luckily, it is nothing like that. It is something much, much better.
Screening at the London Film Festival on October 18, 19, 20. Drinking Buddies opens nationwide on 1 November.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Taylor Swift, 1989 - album review: Pop star shows 'promising signs of maturity'
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth sent home in double firing
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Miranda Hart confirms eponymous sitcom has come to an end as she bows out on a 'high'
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are