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Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson in DRINKING BUDDIES, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
2013, 90 minutes
Rated R for language throughout

Review by Joshua Handler

Drinking Buddies is one of this year's surprise gems.  It is a film of modest ambitions, but one with a huge amount of charm and heart.  Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston are the four principal actors and all turn in some of their best performances, especially considering all of them improvised every scene of the film.  The film follows Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson), two co-workers at a Chicago brewery who are best friends and would be a great couple if they were not both in relationships, as they cautiously walk the line between friends and lovers.

Olivia Wilde gives a performance that, while not serious like many typical Oscar contenders, would get awards attention in a perfect world.  She is immensely likable and relatable and crafts a three-dimensional portrait of Kate.  In this film, Wilde is very much like that close friend who is smart and business-savvy, yet always there to talk and hang out.  I was disappointed every time a scene with her ended and a scene without her showed up.

Jake Johnson turns in a performance to match Wilde's.  His easy charm and quick wit make his performance a winner.  Everything that I said about Wilde's performance applies to Johnson's.  Sparks fly in his scenes with Wilde.  Their chemistry is really believable and because of this, their scenes together drive the film.

I can't say that I feel great after most movies I see, but I can honestly say that I felt great when Drinking Buddies was over and enjoyed every minute.  Every single scene was needed to drive the film forward or develop characters, and all scenes were engaging.  Having the actors improvise their dialogue was a stroke of genius by writer/director Joe Swanberg.  To cap off the film is a wordless final scene that is brilliantly-executed and brings the film to a funny, yet realistic close.  The entire movie felt very realistic.  Nothing was contrived.

Overall, Drinking Buddies is a delight.  It isn't anything groundbreaking, but it is one of the better films I've seen recently because it's so enjoyable.  Watching it felt like hanging out with a couple of friends for 90 minutes.  I can't think of anything better than that.

Drinking Buddies is available on VOD now and will be released theatrically on August 23.


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