Drinking Buddies

Year: 2013
Production Co: Burn Later Productions
Director: Joe Swanberg
Producer: Joe Swanberg
Writer: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Jason Sudekis

The performances are natural and realistic, but it is drama?

It's not strictly true that nothing happens in Drinking Buddies, but when all the conflict that normally constitutes drama is buried under the mumblecore stylings of a group of 20-somethings who never show any emotion to each other, you could be forgiven for thinking you're watching a reality show where the producers forgot to stage any fake arguments.

Boutique brewery sales agent Kate (Olivia Wilde) is dating the upstanding Chris (Livingston), but it's obvious to the audience – given access to her point of view – that she holds a giant torch for co-worker Luke (Jake Johnson, buried under a thrift-store trucker's cap and huge hipster beard), who's dating the sweet and slightly twee Jill (Anna Kendrick).

The only real set piece you can remember after it's over is the weekend away to the country the foursome enjoy – each member of the party getting dangerously close to the wrong significant other.

The rest of it as huge amount of set dressing and kidultspeak telling the basic story that Kate and Luke are the forbidden fruit each wants in each other, but Drinking Buddies goes way beyond the point where rational grown ups would otherwise sit down and address the elephant in the room in plain English.

Even if they were much more eloquent (and a lot more selfish), it's hard to believe they'd hold out as long as they do – when everything's said and done, the only infidelity that's gone on is a single chaste kiss. The rest is a 90-minute film of supposed adults behaving like embarrassed, confused teenagers, masking their feelings with false bravado and trying to dare each other into making the first move with a high school crush. In the end, Drinking Buddies is an awful lot of talk without anything much actually being said.

If you look hard enough for an upside, the performances by all the leads are incredibly natural and off the cuff. Apparently working with loose scene guides rather than a script of dialogue, all four lead actors are impressively realistic, with Wilde in particular carrying large parts of the film virtually by herself.

But it's hard to forget the quote attributed to Alfred Hitchcock about drama being the same as life but with the dull bits cut out. One of the reasons we go to the movies (or read a book, or visit the opera) is to experience the kind of time-compressed high emotion we seldom get in reality. With barely a raised voice and a single sob of heartbreak that's quickly choked back, this must be the idlest story of star-crossed love ever.

But to prove how versatile he is, writer/director Joe Swanberg is indeed the same guy who had one of the segments of last year's ace found footage horror flick V/H/S.

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