It is quite interesting to see the way in which we consume films over the past decade change, and it has changed drastically. One of the biggest new avenues to watch films (especially new ones) is through Video On Demand. While VOD has been around for a while it has never been taking advantage of by film studios until recently, and as more film studios have taken notice of VOD success stories (such as Margin Call or Bachelorette) it has gotten to the point that good options have become available on this platform. I mean just earlier this year I watched a Terrence Malick film in my living room the same day it was released into theaters. The greatest benefit of this format, though, is that it brings attention to films that I probably would have never watched in the first place. The latest example of this is Drinking Buddies (the Olivia Wilde-Jake Johnson rom-com). It seems like all of the attention that Drinking Buddies has received is because of its VOD release (other than the occasional critic who has raved about the film). That’s a shame because Drinking Buddies is just as strong (if not stronger) than most films that will get nationwide releases. Drinking Buddies is, quite simply, a fantastic deconstruction of the friends falling in love subsection of the romantic-comedy genre.
Drinking Buddies follows Kate (Olivia Wilde), an employee of a beer distribution company, and her co-worker Luke (Jake Johnson) as they both hit turbulent times with their relationships with their new boyfriend (Ron Livingston) and soon-to-be fiancée (Anna Kendrick), respectively. The film is directed and written by Joe Swanberg (who’s most high-profile work so far was directing a segment of the independent horror anthology film, V/H/S).
This film is a major success and a lot of that has to do with Swanberg’s script. Swanberg takes a realistic approach to writing these characters (I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that Swanberg had the actors ad-lib their dialogue), and he makes sure to point out that these people are fallible. Yet Swanberg makes sure to make everyone likeable, which just makes their inevitable mistakes that much more difficult (in a good way) to watch. It was also really surprising to see where this film ends up in the final act. Instead of just ticking of the usual rom-com clichés, Swanberg takes the plot in an interesting direction that seems completely fresh. Meanwhile, Swanberg’s direction is sturdy enough that you will believe and will be able to handle the third act twists and turns.
The cast is quite stellar as well. I’ve never really found Olivia Wilde interesting. It seems like in most of her projects she is cast because of her looks and because she is considered to be a rising star. Here, however, she not only seems natural, but ends up giving the best performance in the film. She is able to perfectly pull of the train wreck portion of her character while still being able to make her seem likeable. Jake Johnson also makes a favorable impression (I don’t watch New Girl) and really handles the bigger role that he is required to take on in the film’s final act well. Anna Kendrick is her usual self as she makes good use out of a role that would have amounted to nothing in lesser hands while Ron Livingston rounds out the cast in a role that needed a bit more screen time in order to leave an impression.
Drinking Buddies is one of the best indie films of the year.