In Drinking Buddies, Olivia Wilde plays the only female employee of an urban craft brewery. She and her co-worker best buddy (Jake Johnson) eat their lunches together every day, kid around on the job and join the crew for beers after work. They really connect and share trust with each other, and the two have achieved an enviable level of interpersonal comfort. If this were the typical idiot Hollywood romantic comedy, we could stop watching now, because we would know that they would dump their current significant others (Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston) in the third act because THEY ARE MEANT FOR EACH OTHER.
But, instead, writer-director Joe Swanberg surprises us with an unusually genuine romantic comedy. The characters act and react – not in the way we’ve come to expect rom com characters to act – but as unpredictably as would real people. Real people can be complex. Real people can make choices out of short-term self-gratification – or they can make sacrifices for the greater good – you don’t always know what’s coming. Swanberg trusts that the audience isn’t demanding a tired formula – and it pays off for him and for us.
Swanberg has also made the first Mumblecore movie that I’ve liked. I was on the verge of writing off the entire cinematic genre because I don’t like to watch self-involved twits obsess over their own avoidable, First World problems. Although Swanberg’s male characters have the Mumblecore bedhead, he makes this movie about a situation that could happen to any of us – discovering a potential soul mate outside our existing relationship. And the characters don’t wring their hands and kvetch – they struggle through the untidy challenge and move on.
The cast is solid, and the glammed-down Olivia Wilde is especially very good here.