Combustible Celluloid
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With: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Ti West, Jason Sudeikis, Mike Brune, Frank V. Ross, Michael Gaertner, Kristin Davis, Jim Cibak, Alicia Van Couvering, Joe Swanberg, Michael Zeller
Written by: Joe Swanberg
Directed by: Joe Swanberg
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Running Time: 90
Date: 08/30/2013

Drinking Buddies (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Beer to My Heart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A few weeks ago, Andrew Bujalski's astounding Computer Chess illustrated how innovative and experimental the "mumblecore" movement had become. Now comes the flip-side: Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies, shows how accessible and comfortable the genre has become -- in a good way.

Drinking Buddies features recognizable Hollywood stars who are allowed, refreshingly, to play outside their pre-assigned Hollywood roles.For example, comedy actor Jake Johnson plays a regular guy -- complete with beard and baseball cap -- and beauty Olivia Wilde plays a normal girl with Converse sneakers. Subsequently, Wilde has never been better.

Even Jason Sudeikis is more human in his small role here than in his current hit We're the Millers.

The story takes place in a Chicago craft brewery where Luke (Johnson) works making beer, while Kate (Wilde) works in the office, making phone calls. Luke and Kate are great friends. They enjoy drinking together after work, and jokingly flirt with one another.

However, Kate is dating the straight-laced Chris (Ron Livingston), and Luke is dating the sweet, girl-next-door-type Jill (Anna Kendrick). Before long, this foursome goes for a weekend getaway in Chris' family cabin.

Though the movie may sound like last year's terrific Your Sister's Sister, the cabin scene is little more than a kicking-off point. The clash of personalities therein does not quite go the way you'd expect.

Eventually with Jill out of town, Luke offers to help the newly single Kate move to a new apartment, leaving the two friends to face their feelings toward one another. This sequence is as messy and complicated as a real relationship might be.

Swanberg's directorial technique is designed for maximum comfort, speed, and warmth, allowing the actors to flourish without too much fuss. (Swanberg himself appears onscreen as the "angry man" during the U-Haul sequence.)

Everyone has his or her own baggage in this movie. It's more focused on feelings and emotions, rather than on results. Nothing fits together quite so effortlessly as in a Hollywood romance.

Conflict is often avoided, and humor is used as defense mechanism. When characters do confront one another, the battle becomes a lively mess of accusations and defenses. Words fumble for meaning more often than achieving it.

Simple scenes of characters at work, concentrating on routines and behavior, are often more revealing than dialogue.

Actually, the great amount of alcohol consumed in Drinking Buddies perhaps contributes to its general mood, but in a year of dry "event" movies, it's a real thirst-quencher.

Magnolia sent me a DVD screener, which includes a director/producer commentary track, deleted scenes, featurettes, and trailers. I can't comment on the quality of the Blu-ray.

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