A Review of DRINKING BUDDIES
review by IAFT correspondent Peter Wassell
Joe Schwanberg is considered one of the pioneers of the Mumblecore movement, and I was lucky enough to interview him for a previous blog entry on the IAFT website:
And though Drinking Buddies has many of the same qualities a Mumblecore film might, Schwanberg has added in just enough structure and visual stimulation to transcend the genre, in the process making something that is endearing and lyrical, yet retains that sense of authenticity that has come to define the Mumblecore movement.
Set in Chicago, Luke and Kate (Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde) work at a brewery that screams young and hip. They are best friends and the sexual tension is palpable. Enter Jill (Anna Kendrick) as Luke’s girlfriend and Chris (Ron Livingston) as Kate’s boyfriend. What follows is a blurring of boundaries and emotions. The mantra, the grass is always greener, has never been so thoroughly explored, or so honestly dealt with. Love, marriage, relationships, friendships, one night stands, 20 year olds. The film is a web of ideas that Schwanberg somehow manages to spin around a very pleasant, well-trodden plot.
What sets this film apart from other Mumblecore movies is the sense of structure that Schwanberg imparts. He has a basic outline for each scene, what the characters need to do in order to get where they’re going. When you couple that with a cast of young, talented actors who can move the characters forward with powerful improvisational skills, you get a film that feels organic, natural, and honest while never forgetting about its audience. Scenes don’t wear out their welcome, they don’t condescend, and they don’t linger. Schwanberg also edited the film, which is another testament to his skill as a storyteller and to the fact that he, above anyone else, understands and loves his characters.
Drinking Buddies might not be for everyone. Its audience is most certainly made up of young people, but older and younger generations will be able to love these characters because at the end of the day you feel like you’ve met them before. They’re real and there is no pretention. Whether or not you agree with their decisions, or lack thereof, you’re always rooting for them to get to the bottom of their feelings, and the strength of the story lies in the fact that Luke, Kate, Jill, and Chris never really do get to the bottom of things. They are as confused as we all are, and though you may find yourself burning inside for them to tell each other how they feel, you feel that much more aligned with them at the end, when all their truths and insecurities are not shared, but felt.