Last night, Examiner.com was on the scene for a special Brooklyn screening of Magnolia Pictures’ "Drinking Buddies" at Nitehawk Cinema.
Joe Swanberg has quietly been on the movie scene since 2005, directing many independent, mumblecore films that have a very cult-like fan base (for those who don't know, mumblecore is classified as films with low budgets, amateur actors, and heavily natural dialogue.) With films like "Kissing on the Mouth" and "Hannah Takes the Stairs," Swanberg made his name and became a key contributor to the mumblecore movement. This brings us to Swanberg's most recent film, "Drinking Buddies." While keeping with the traditional mumblecore elements, he's given an A-List cast with a higher budget than anything he's had to work with before... and he doesn't waste it.
Taking place in a Chicago brewery, Kate (Wilde) is an event-coordinator for Revolution Brewing while Luke (Johnson) does the labor of brewing beer and cleaning his work space. The two are such good friends that they're comfortable being around each other, being intimate, and flirting. While you watching you ask yourself, why don't they just kiss already? Well the answer is actually pretty simple: they're both dating other people. Kate has been dating Chris (Livingston) for about eight months, while Luke has been with Jill (Kendrick) for a much longer time; so long that the question of marriage has popped up once or twice.
Both couples decide to go out to Chris' family cabin out by the beach for a weekend to get away from work and the pressures of life. While Kate and Luke spend a lot of their time sitting in the cabin and drinking, Jill and Chris go out on a hike in the wilderness and talk while setting up a nice picnic. There's not much else to really say without spoiling too much of the movie, but Swanberg does a masterful job of being unpredictable with a genre that has been so predictable numerous times before.
Different from the usual mumblecore films, Swanberg has an incredible cast to work with in "Drinking Buddies" and they're all perfect. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson have such wonderful chemistry together, which is all the more impressive with the fact that Swanberg's film was unscripted. Kendrick and Livingston, while given lesser screen time do the most with what's given to them. Kendrick especially was pretty hilarious considering she was actually drunk during one scene (you'll know which one), which makes the performance even funnier and truer.
Swanberg is able to center his whole movie around the question, "Can a guy and a girl be just friends?" and he does it all without tipping his hand. He brings truth and freshness to a genre that tends to get filled with such sappy material that it's just old and outdated. He's able to avoid any predictability and the clichés that one would expect while creating an enjoyable movie filled with awkward silences, uncomfortable situations, and friendships; he pretty much creates a film focusing on real people and relationships while making it actually feel real.
The 90 minute film, which is now available on demand and in itunes, hits theaters this Friday, August 23. Prior to the screening guests were served Revolution beer (the same brewery where the film was shot) and Kings County Whiskey. Once in the theater, the drinking continued and everyone was treated to the "Greatest Sandwich Ever," inspired by a scene in the film.
Additional reporting by Joshua Kaye