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.
Written 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.
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.