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Drinking Buddies review: subtextual romance

Drinking Buddies green light Olivia Wilde Jake Johnson

A beautifully observed dramedy about modern friendship and romance; funny, poignant, unforgettable.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Kate (Olivia Wilde: Her) and Luke (Jake Johnson: The Lego Movie) work together at a small brewery. You’d be forgiven for taking them for not only coworkers but for a couple: their day is full of goofy, flirty banter, the sort of fun, delicious togetherness that many of us would envy. But in fact, Luke is with Jill (Anna Kendrick: Pitch Perfect) and Kate is with Chris (Ron Livingston: Parkland)… though maybe they shouldn’t be; certainly, there’s little of the same comfortable camaraderie between the putative couples. Drinking Buddies is all about what happens when Kate and Luke start to realize this, too. There’s little in the way of overt story, however, in this beautifully observed dramedy about modern friendship and romance. Instead, it’s as if we are eavesdropping on the lives of these four people at a difficult moment, during which no one actually says a word about what’s really going on; you know, just like in real life, sometimes, how the harder something is to cope with, the less tends to be said. Director Joe Swanberg — who also wrote the film, to the extent that an almost completely improvised movie can be written — has crafted a fictional film that feels totally naturalistic and completely unconstructed, yet without any of that messy unfinishedness you might expect. This is the only movie I’ve ever seen in which the entire story plays out in the subtext, and there is something astonishing and genius in that. I could have hung out with Kate and Luke forever.

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