Drinking Buddies is a romantic comedy that doesn’t feel much like one. Or at least, not a run-of-the-mill, recycled-formula one.
Refreshing and nuanced, it’s When Harry Met Sally played for plausible drama rather than big laughs; a ‘will they, won’t they?’ with something to say about the complex, delicate nature of attraction without having to actually say it.
There’s a suitably unspoken sense of longing, angst and uncertainty underpinning the flirty, beer-loving friendship between Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) – co-workers at a Chicago craft brewery – both of whom have quieter partners: Chris (Ron Livingston) and Jill (Anna Kendrick), respectively.
As you might expect, Kate and Luke are as perfect for each other as Chris and Jill are; a fact that becomes clear when the couples go on a double-date weekend retreat. It’s here, however, that the romcom set-up bubbles into something a bit more interesting and believable.
Writer/director Joe Swanberg (best known for mumblecore movies like LOL and Hannah Takes The Stairs) sets about deftly dissecting the messy, strange phenomenon of what is, essentially, Luke and Kate’s emotional affair.
A friendship that isn’t really a friendship. A relationship that isn’t really a relationship. It’s a theme that would have been impossible to pull off with a cast any less adept at saying one thing while meaning another.
Special mention should go to Wilde, whose slobbish Kate is instantly likeable – as well as swilling with chaos, conflict and yes, booze. She’s the driving force of a portrait of love where the subject’s neither romanticised nor – as can be a risk with mumblecore – rendered tedious.
Characters don’t stare out of windows (or indeed dash to the airport), but we do get drama, fun and a sense of structure, all carried off with a lightness of touch. Best of all, though, is the uneasy ring of truth, which will definitely still be with you the morning after.