The Mumblecore film movement was kept alive in 2013 with the releases of Frances Ha, Computer Chess and this lo-fi utilitarian rom-com. Drinking Buddies is a four character study of two pairs in relationships. Director Joe Swanberg’s script captures the poetic rhythms of adults trapped in limbo between security and instability.
Chris and Kate are boyfriend and girlfriend. Ditto Luke and Jill. At a party, Chris invites Luke and Jill to join him and Kate for the weekend at his family’s cottage by the lake. Complications develop. One guess what those might be. Apparently writer director Joe Swanberg was inspired by 1969’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. That implies lots of risqué shenanigans but that is far from the case. Someone kisses someone else, but that is the extent of the indiscretions. Most of this observational drama is focused on pleasant unrehearsed conversations. The emotions feel genuine and the developing story is authentic. These are real people with real desires. However it all builds to much ado about nothing. I get it. This chronicle celebrates the journey, not the destination, but even the way the drama unfolds is pretty lethargic. I should film the laughs, tears, arguments and pain amongst my own friends. With the assistance of a great editor, I could probably fashion a more interesting saga. That’s not to say this is a terrible picture. It’s just insignificant.
Drinking Buddies is highlighted by some nuanced acting, but the whole production is underwhelming. Minimalism can be refreshing, but nothingness is distressing. Occasionally the dialogue sounds as if they’re making it all up as they go along. You keep hoping they’re going to say something insightful about relationships, but that revelation never arrives. It sounds genuine and awkward at different times intermittently. I suppose part of the curiosity here is seeing attractive actors like Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston look so utterly disheveled in appearance. They portray hazily defined hipsters that will make your own friends seem like scintillating conversationalists by comparison. Watching this gang have a drink or two is a bit of a provocation. Drinking Buddies suggests alcohol is a motivator to act on one’s true feelings. Watching the mundanity of these proceedings, it’s probably only a matter of time before you’ll start reaching for the bottle.