Joe Swanberg has mumbled his way into the mainstream with Drinking Buddies, a relationship comedy with a bigger budget and bigger names than his previous microbuget efforts. But as the master of mumblecore, it makes sense that the ridiculously prolific filmmaker should be the first working in this festival favourite genre to land such a wide release.
Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde play craft beer co-workers who are clearly much more than close friends. Luke and Kate would be great together if they weren’t already in relationships with other people. During a weekend retreat we meet their partners (Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick), who both hit it off right away, having so much more in common with each other than they do with their beer-brewing other halves.
A more predictable rom-com would have pushed this scenario towards the inevitable moment of truth-telling but instead, Swanberg stays true to life, exploring the quietly damaging rhythms of repressed romance.
No longer lo-fi, Swanberg remains fixated on the minutiae of mutual attraction. The amorous confusions suffered by the quartet feel all the more plausible and painful thanks to the filmmaker’s eye for revealing, non-verbal moments. In these entirely improvised crevices of awkward affection, Drinking Buddies is a refreshing but bitter brew that packs a pretty pokey taste.
Sitting down to discuss the film with Swanberg, it only felt right to crack a coupla cold ones.
First published by Vérité Film Magazine on October 31, 2014