Drinking Buddies
How to remark about a movie that is generally unremarkable?
They tried to make this one of those indie movies that feels so informal, with all the hand-held camera shots, and the casual conversation, and the improvised dialogue. Nothing fancy here. No CGI monsters, no chase scenes, no violence, no comic book characters, no animation, no lavish sets, no cast of thousands, no stunning costumes, no lush landscape….in fact, pretty much nothing except four main characters, and a small circle of close friends, most of whom work at the same microbrewery.
Kate (Olivia Wilde) is one of those firmly independent singles who nonetheless has a regular friend with benefits, Chris (Ron Livingston), who’s quiet and introspective alongside her extroverted party girl persona. Her best friend is Luke (Jake Johnson), who’s obviously attuned to Kate, and vice versa, but Luke has a steady girl in Jill (Anna Kendrick), a live-in who sometimes wants the marriage conversation to go somewhere besides “someday.”
The four of them go for a weekend to Chris’ family’s lake cabin in the woods, and there they play drunken blackjack, and then drink some more. Luke and Kate find themselves by themselves at night beside a campfire on the shore, and Kate even goes skinny-dipping, either like it’s no big deal among friends, or purposefully pushing the envelope on cross-flirting. The next morning, both of them are sleeping in late, so Jill and Chris go on a hike, and during the picnic lunch try a little experimental kiss.
Are we all about swapping partners here? No, not really. But the emotional cross-currents, predictably, confuse the issue about the nature of both relationships.
Meanwhile, the drinking continues: first at the brewery itself, then by everybody celebrating at night at the local pool hall/tavern, and overall there’s an incredible amount of alcohol consumed here, with nobody even raising the specter of addiction, or alcoholism. Just friends having fun with friends, with apparently no ill effects. Just a decided drifting to these young lives that don’t seem interested in family as anything other than abstraction, and certainly aren’t doing anything for anyone else.
In a way, nothing really happens in this movie. In another way, all the characters undergo some attitude shifts with regard to each other, but it takes a while for any realization to dawn on anybody, and then, when it does, well, it gets underplayed along with most everything else.
Don’t expect excitement. Don’t expect profound. Don’t expect awesome plot turns or strong performances or edgy humor or even much ribald action. They just kind of sleepwalk through this one like they’re all half-snockered, which they may very well be. If this is the slacker generation, I’ll leave them to their practiced ennui and seek something a little more remarkable.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas