Monday, 29 July 2013

Drinking Buddies, dir/wr. Joe Swanberg, st. Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston

A pair of couples burdened with their desire for the other's partner is the trope of long-running sitcom plot-lines and terrible student-devised One-Acters, but here, under the masterful pen and lens of writer/director Swanberg, becomes a coolly observed illustration of where relationship and friendship communications intersect, complicate, and diverge. Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) are co-workers at a Chicago craft brewery. Such an environment means that the amber nectar's never far away - either as a tipple during lunch, or afterwards at the workers' local bar, and provides the pair with a focal activity around which they laugh, chat and cavort. But Kate and Luke have other halves in the form of Jill (Kendrick) and Chris (Livingston), a pair who prefer shopping-channel camping gear and tupperwear to cards and shots. That Drinking Buddies firmly refuses to be drawn on moral absolutes and parameter-defining relationship no-goes is what makes this drama such a powerful and engrossing watch. This is a film that involves the four, but belongs to Kate and Luke. To attempt to untangle the nature of their knotty relationship, just what exactly constitutes the blunt and unwieldy notion of flirting and kinship, is a whole narrative can of worms that Swanberg's more than happy to spill and then force us to watch the sprawl. It's wonderfully performed, funny, unsettling, honest to the point of autobiographical recognition, and manages to be achingly perceptive without seemingly doing very much at all.