The Netflix Queue: Drinking Buddies (2013)
Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde) work together at an upstart brewery and spend their post-work hours drinking with their coworkers. The chemistry between them is obvious, even if they both have significant others. It’s already obvious where this is going. No one in this movie does, though, until Kate and her boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston) spend a weekend away at a cabin with Luke and his girlfriend Jill (Anna Kendrick), and then truths come out and relationships change forever.
At least Drinking Buddies has the courtesy to not make either Chris or Jill blatantly unlikeable – sure, they end up kissing, which could have been used to get Luke and Kate together without guilt on their parts, but Anna Kendrick and Jake Johnson have a natural chemistry and their characters have a clear affinity for one another that, unlike every other movie of this genre, you’re not left screaming at the screen as to why they’re together in the first place, and rooting for them in the end doesn’t feel wrong. In short, Jill is not painted as a villain, and that’s refreshing.
Kate and Chris, on the other hand, are more obviously mismatched although once again neither one is clearly “bad,” their incompatibility is much more subtle than that. Chris is socially awkward while Kate is outgoing, easygoing and friendly. They don’t work, and Chris is just the first one to realize that.
What it lacks in original plot, Drinking Buddies makes up for in its honesty. It isn’t a movie about coworkers, polar opposites or other unlikely pairs falling in love, it’s a movie about the intricacies of relationships. Sure, there’s mutual flirting and chemistry to spare between Luke and Kate, but that’s not enough to build a solid foundation on, so their story doesn’t end with quite so obvious a happily-ever-after. In fact, the movie doesn’t even necessarily tell a story so much as it meanders toward its ending, leaving its characters only marginally better off than they were before. Nothing much changes, save for Chris and Kate’s relationship, and no one learns much of anything.
But at least the dialogue feels natural, even improvised. Olivia Wilde especially does a great job making Kate feel like a real person, a “one of the guys” girl who is easy going enough to drink and joke right along with her male coworkers. She makes an easy watch out of a film that otherwise wouldn’t amount to much.