Starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson. Written and directed by Joe Swanberg. 14A. 90 min. Opens Sept. 6 at Carlton Cinemas.
Having released 16 features in eight years, Joe Swanberg is not one to waste time, even if his characters have been known to dilly-dally. And though the Chicago-based filmmaker’s hasty working methods and fondness for frank, largely improvised talk from his actors keeps him at the margins of the American movie scene, a breakthrough is not out of the question.
An amiable dramedy about the pitfalls of male-female friendship, Drinking Buddies moves him closer to the centre, thanks to the sharp performances he elicits from his starriest cast to date. Olivia Wilde is surprisingly plausible here as an ordinary working stiff who handles promotions for a craft brewery. Though partnered with a solid-seeming boyfriend (Ron Livingston), she has a different kind of spark with Luke (Jake Johnson), the co-worker who’s become her go-to drinking companion. Unfortunately, he also has a good thing going with his longtime significant other (Anna Kendrick), which further complicates the mutual attraction between these two office spouses, especially when the four parties head out for a weekend getaway together.
Swanberg’s specialty is long scenes of people hanging out, laughing at each other’s jokes, and not talking about what’s really on their minds, and Drinking Buddies has plenty of those, too. But a few curveballs late in the story make for a more charged situation than he’s featured in previous outings. The well-curated array of au courant indie-rock on the soundtrack enhances the movie’s appeal to its target audience of romantically challenged hipsters who, like Luke and Kate, would rather die than fess up to how they feel.