It doesn't matter if it's a painter, musician or even a filmmaker, any artist trying to break into a specific scene deserves an enormous amount of credit for putting himself/herself out there. Opening yourself up for criticism is one of the most difficult things anyone can do. Writer/director Joe Swanberg has worked diligently over the past 7-8 years attempting to make a name for himself in the film industry. With his most notable work coming in the form of a director gig for one segment in the indie horror hit V/H/S, Swanberg hopes his latest effort, Drinking Buddies, can put him on the map.
Kate (played by Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are co-workers at a craft brewery in Chicago. Both are in committed relationships with separate people, however, these flirtatious friends can't escape their undeniable connection with one another. When a weekend alone together tests their boundaries, Kate and Luke recognize that they must either act on their feelings or put an end to these mind games once and for all.
Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies is a 90 minute marathon that examines the inner-workings of an opposite-sex friendship. While the subject matter is genuine and heartfelt, the young director's delivery is both sloppy and uneventful. For starters, the feature's main characters make it far too difficult for the audience to desire a connection with them. Playing out like a childish and awkward middle school relationship, the sexual tension between Kate and Luke becomes too uncomfortable and tiresome for any moviegoer to invest their energy. In addition to the irritating mind games, Drinking Buddies offers little to no story at all. Clearly a character study about these two immature co-workers, Swanberg's newest release fails to capture a worthwhile identity.
Although the film never reaches its full potential, the blame doesn't fall on the shoulders of its well-rounded cast. Olivia Wilde stars and even shines at times in her leading role. This is the first time that Wilde has ever legitimately caught my attention by stealing a scene, and it happens more than once here. Furthermore, her male counterpart, Jake Johnson, continues to reinforce the notion that he can be an effective in carrying a major motion picture. Anna Kendrick also deserves a shout-out for her adorable supporting role. She has a knack for lighting up the screen whenever she's given the opportunity. But despite a strong collection of performances from his cast, Swanberg's flimsy story and awkward vibe make Drinking Buddies a hard sell.
One interesting fact to point out is Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies is a largely improvised film. And as I mentioned earlier, the writer/director should be applauded for his efforts in pulling off something that's extremely difficult. Yet, the truth remains that Drinking Buddies is frequently uncomfortable and often irritating. I understand the challenges of making a mainly improvised film, yet, there's nothing better than a well-written story. Unfortunately, there isn't one here.