Drinking Buddies Has Limited Appeal Even For Beer Lovers

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by Carrie Specht

Olivia Wilde stars as Kate in Drinking Buddies, the tale of a twenty-something hipster who works and lives a life centered on beer. Jake Johnson is her co-worker, Luke who works with her at a craft brewery. From the very beginning we are led to believe that they have one of those friendships that could be something more. We believe this because they get along so well and have way too much fun that borders on flirtation. However, Kate is with an older, more cerebral guy named Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke is with the young and intelligent Jill (Anna Kendrick) who wants to know if her boyfriend is even considering marriage. It seems pretty clear throughout the film that he is not, but the question is pressed when Luke and Kate find themselves alone for a weekend. You might think this would challenge their relationship and heighten any unexamined feelings they have for each other. However, Kate is the only one who pushes the envelope while Luke dismissively laughs at her alcohol-induced antics, leaving the already thin story line without much of a punch by the time we get to the pointless ending.

1373480615000-drinking-1307101424_4_3Written and directed by Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies does have a certain charm that sets it apart from other films of the day. Many critics have remarked upon this and hailed the film as “genuine” and the characters possessing a palpable “chemistry”. Well, maybe yes and maybe no. I found the cast to be very likeable, but the lack of any real heft to the story lets the full potential of these characters down. Yes, there’s no denying the fact that it’s refreshing to see such a unique relationship between two adult friends of the opposite sex. However, it seems as if we are purposely mislead to believe that there is an unexamined attraction between these two people, and that’s just a big fat no.

As much as Kate playfully taunts and teases her male co-workers, there’s absolutely nothing on Luke’s part that even remotely implies that he is interested. Not even after this truly beautiful woman strips down in front of him and begs him to join her for some skinny-dipping. In fact, in the one and only moment that anyone comes close to questioning the massive amount of beer Kate consumes Luke’s interest barely peaks above a passing concern for her alcohol influenced judgment skills. And that’s it. Although Jake Johnson more than holds his own among his better known colleagues, his character (Luke) simply comes off as a nice guy who’s happily rolling through life. All the so-called romantic comedy (which is not how I would categorize this film) is left up to Olivia Wilde and the one misleading scene between Livingston and Kendrick, in which you’re left wanting to see some follow through that never comes.

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It is apparent that Olivia Wilde is a star to watch, but as far as Drinking Buddies goes the film is no real friend to her. The story’s potential is never fully reached, leaving the viewer dissatisfied as if they just drank a bad lite beer that’s less filling and offers very little to entertain the palate. Of course, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to beer, and movies. I can’t help it. I’ve just experienced too many good ones to accept anything that simply satisfies. I prefer an experience that quenches my thirst by the time I get to the end of it.

Drinking Buddies opened in Los Angeles Friday, August 30th at the NuArt Theatre.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Maybe Artful But Is It A Good Film?

www.indiewireby Carrie Specht

There’s been a lot of talk, or “buzz” about one of the latest indie darlings, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Much of this talk is well earned, and yet there is some purely momentum-generated hype going on here. You know the kind that comes from people jumping on an already popular bandwagon. No doubt about it, this is a visually beautiful film that flows like an ode to a more lyrical style of filmmaking of an age gone by – the type of which we don’t see in today’s movie houses. However, the story itself never quite comes together as a whole. Too many important elements to the plot are left unsaid, and these key points would clarify a somewhat murky storyline. That is not to say that the individual parts, such as the stellar performances and keen cinematography are not remarkable on their own. Yet, ultimately the individual parts do outweigh the whole. Significantly.

movies-aint-them-bodies-saints-still-4Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) provide two truly exceptional performances as the young lovers who have a rather traumatic, although deserved misadventure with the law early on in the movie. He naturally takes the blame, and she goes off and proceeds to live a solitary life to wait for him under the watchful eye of her neighbor and their mentor, the always reliably watchable Keith Carradine (still a mighty handsome figure on the silver screen since his appearances in McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Nashville). Ben Foster (The Messenger, 3:10 to Yuma) does an impressive job conveying the poignancy behind the young deputy sheriff who suffered from the lovers’ mistake and now noticeably longs to be something more to our heroine and her little girl.

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So, with so many great elements (including the aforementioned cinematography created by Bradford Young) why am I not raving about this festival darling? To paraphrase a well-known quote about Los Angeles, “there’s no there, there” in the plot. What do I mean? The mysterious connection between Carradine and his two protégé’s is never truly explained. The audience is just suppose to go with it, which I think is sloppy filmmaking. A similar problem exists within the budding relationship between Mara and Foster, not to mention a completely unaddressed reason for a fifth character to risk his own precarious freedom and even his life to aid Affleck in his pursuit to reunite with Mara. Too many holes to be covered by the greatly admired beauty of this film.

c85eb71a4ad5423ba19e478e2b59fd0f-cf36a19fc9ba45fb9a3c5219d23edf9b-2I never accept great performances over content, and that’s what’s lacking. Yes, the main characters are very compelling, but when you rob both the actors and the audience the opportunity to experience the fulfillment of a major plot point by having crucial action happen off screen you’ve lost major credibility points, and created a film that is likely to fall through the cracks once the initial glow of the artificially amped popularity has faded. Some will not mind these shortcomings and join the parade of ardent admires, but I am certain that these same people will not remember their current favorite movie in a year’s time. There are just too many parts askew to achieve a satisfying whole no matter how much you focus on the best parts. Anatomy just works that way.