A Movie Review: Drinking Buddies

Mike mentioned in a previous episode that there was a new “romantic” comedy that took place in a Brewery. Being the one stop shop for all things related to brews I decided to sit down with a bucket of popcorn and watch, “Drinking Buddies.”

The film was an experiment in capturing real moments.  It was shot in Colorado’s Revolution Brewing brewery which lent an extremely authentic look to the brewing scenes.  It felt that Luke and Kate were both knowledgable employees with Kate having to deal with publicity, distributors, and dealing with a well-meaning but often less business savvy boss.  Luke on the other hand looked the part of the craft brewer with his bushy beard, tattoos, and favorite trucker hat.  (As annoying as it is to have a craft brewer stereotype.)

The actors were giving only a rough structure script before shooting and each day were given only certain specifics of each scene.  Thus the entire movie was improvised by the actors.  This experiment in improvisation was a bit jarring at first as actors on occasion stepped on each other lines and made the dialogue seem less polished but after the first twenty minutes or so a perspective shift occurred for me that lent an air of authenticity to the character interactions.  It wasn’t so much that I was watching a movie but more that I had stumbled into the private moments of real people.  That I was watching private moments of couples being jealous, loving, or fighting between each other.  It made for perhaps less impressive vernacular but better realism.  No one will be quoting this films dramatic, impassioned final speech to recapture love or define the joys of marriage because there isn’t one.  Because that doesn’t actually happen in real life.

The movie is a character piece that investigates the difficulties of two coworkers who have romantic feelings for each other while being in relationships with other people. Kate, played by Olivia Wilde (who is having a reddit AMA on Thursday), is the office administrator for a moderately sized Chicago based craft brewery.  She has a playful, flirtatious working relationship with brewer Luke, played by Jake Johnson.  Yet this relationship must stay friendly as Kate is busy dating Chris, played by Ron Livingston, who is a seemingly well to do recording studio owner and Luke is living with his long time girlfriend Jill, played by the adorable Anna Kendrick.

The foursome become closer friends during a weekend retreat at Chris’ family lake cabin.  While hiking Jill and Chris kiss while enjoying a picnic in the woods.  Chris responds by breaking up with Kate to subtly pursue Jill while Jill plans a vacation to Central America to get away from Luke.

There were a plethora of qualities about the film that I both enjoyed and disliked.  I initially disliked the improvisation of the film but by the end of the film the realism had grabbed me and my opinion had changed.  Sure it was occasionally grating but I liked that the moments felt real and not practiced.  That the reactions were honest and not rehearsed and no character was perfectly brilliant or witty in a way that breaks the illusion of film.

I strongly disliked Ron Livingston’s character Chris.  I am a huge Ron Livingston fan after Office Space and watching him play a sort of milquetoast, pathetic entitled man was a disappointment to me.  Although I don’t think I could view Ron Livingston in the roll of Luke in the film I was much more inclined to want the Chris character to triumph that perhaps was deserved based on my love for Ron Livingston.

Overall I thought movie was great until the end.  My biggest complaint with the film was the ending.  I had been enjoying myself while watching the film until the last ten minutes or so when the movie defied expectation and ended with a bitter, non-hop related, taste in my mouth.

* SPOILER ALERT *

For me the ending lacked resolution.  The movie has Kate single and clearly emotionally invested in Luke for almost the entire film.  Meanwhile the film makes it painfully obvious that not only is Luke in no rush to marry Jill after dating for so many years that he appears to have a better time when spending time with Kate.  The reason that Jill is able to have the opportunity to kiss Chris is because Luke stayed behind from hiking to spend more time with Kate.  He even stays up until dawn with Kate after Jill has passed out to spend more time with Kate than Jill on their weekend vacation.

Yet the movie ends with Kate and Luke having a blowout that seems to have ruined their friendship.  Jill comes home early from her vacation to admit the kiss to Luke who instantly forgives her.  He is clearly hurt but seems to decide that he loves her enough to forgive something like that and wants to continue the relationship with marriage looming in Jill’s mind.  The last few seconds of the film are Luke and Kate meeting in the office lunch room and exchanging lunch snacks silently.  The gesture obviously meant to symbolize that their friendship is till very much alive.

My complaint was that this both does and doesn’t capture the reality of the situation.  On the one hand life doesn’t wrap itself up in a neat conclusion.  Life doesn’t teach valuable life lessons so the “hero” can grow as a person and express that lesson to the audience.  Yet at the same time this ending is wholly unsatisfactory.  Are we, as the audience, supposed to buy that Luke is anymore interested in marrying Jill than he was earlier in the film.  That his jealous affection for Kate will or has waned.  That the entire scenario isn’t going to play out again and again so long as Luke and Kate are close?  So while I appreciate the idea of making the film as realistic as possible it is still a film and a conclusion that felt more conclusive would have helped make the movie for me.

* END SPOILER ALERT *

In the end though I did enjoy watching the film.  The end was a little too “what the hell was that” for my taste but a weak ending shouldn’t ruin a film. The film has a high critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes at 80% but only a lackluster 57% percent for the general public.  I would tend to put it more toward the critic rating and encourage those who maybe want a more realistic romantic centered film.  And for the craft brew enthusiast you can certainly play the game I did of attempting to identify what the characters were drinking throughout the film.  There were a few bottles to attempt to recognize via partially obscured labels.