Drinking Buddies - DVD Review

'The bizarre tagline, 'A comedy about knowing when to say when' couldn't be less accurate: no-one in this seems to know when to say anything.'

Awkwardness, embarrassment and improvisation. Three film elements of which the maxim does indeed ring true that a little can go a very long way. Drinking Buddies has oodles of all of them.

As such, you don't really watch or enjoy Drinking Buddies, rather it is something which happens to be on in the background whilst you scratch at your skin and drag the bottoms of your eyelids down to your chin. It's an exasperating, maddening experience, ninety minutes of watching people muddle lines and generally smile, say 'erm... OK' and nod their heads whenever they're forced to fill in a scripting gap. The bizarre tagline, 'A comedy about knowing when to say when' couldn't be less accurate: no-one in this seems to know when to say anything.

Perhaps, if it had something better to do with itself, Drinking Buddies could have got by, but the above foibles aren't helped by its slow-paced story, revolving around entirely predictable events. Luke (Jake Johnson) and Jill (Anna Kendrick) are boyfriend and girlfriend. Chris (Ron Livingston) and Kate (Olivia Wilde) are also boyfriend and girlfriend. Luke is quite loud and so is Kate and they work together and get on really well and enjoy copious drinking at their brewery employer and elsewhere. Jill and Chris are both quite bookish and seem fairly ill-suited to their respective partners. Do you have any idea where this film might be going? Any idea at all? If not then you're really not trying hard enough. No matter; the film itself can't even stay behind its own pretences until the end of the first act, starting the roll of inevitable character movements early doors, during a trip by the foursome to Chris' beach-side property.

The problem with the setup and plot isn't just that you can see everything coming because you've seen this film before, it's that you can see everything coming because the setup is so preposterous. I didn't for a second believe Luke and Jill or Chris and Kate were a real couple. Why would they be? They have better-suited tailor made partners already prepared for them, ready and waiting on-screen. Planting your leads in relationships that would never happen just so they can consider and/or achieve cathartic release just isn't good writing. As if it weren't obvious enough, writer/director Joe Swanberg ups the twee Romtantic awkwardness whenever the Luke/Kate or Jill/Chris potential partnerships find themselves on screen alone, sans current romantic partner. The latter two's first conversation is shot from a camera angle so close it was presumably achieved by sticking a GoPro to Livingston's nose, whilst Kendrick stands less than 10 inches away. Luke and Kate's constant physical flirting is so nauseatingly hip it must come with a risk warning: there's the potential for the inducement of violent vomiting here.

Even with all that, I will admit to finally finding something interesting in the character of Kate, something which could have made a much better film. During the third act she's revealed as somewhat fragile and uncertain, hiding a level of emotional frailty behind her loud sales persona and beer intake. It's a frailty that perhaps neither Luke nor Chris will ultimately be able to help her bridge and because of that it's probably the best thing in the film. Kate emerges as sweet, interesting and quasi tragic but by that point it doesn't matter: Wilde has spent the majority of the film fumbling for lines, smiling awkwardly and emptily at a mixture of people, as Swanberg swaps craft for craft beer.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. Yet another reason for me to stay away from the whole mumblecore genre. This sounds like Humpday, which I hated, but with more alcoholism and less amateur gay porn.

    1. Didn't realise this was mumblecore when I added it to the list. Big mistake.

    2. My only relative success in mumblecore so far is COMPUTER CHESS, mainly because it largely doesn't seem like a mumblecore film.