Oct. 24--"Drinking Buddies" is as subtly crafted as a microbrew.
This relationship story between two craft brewery workers -- played by Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde -- is unfiltered, slightly bitter and has distinct spice notes.
In truth, we don't learn much about craft brewing itself, but we do sense the difference in treatment and tone between the film and the pale and watery mega-brewery equivalents from the Hollywood mainstream, even though the film explores the same question as "When Harry Met Sally...": Can men and women truly be friends?
In the film by writer-director Joe Swanberg ("V/H/S"), the partners in a pair of couples seem better suited to their opposite in the other relationship. Wilde is a one-of-the-boys manager at a Chicago brewery -- filming took place at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square -- and bearded, Old Style baseball cap-wearing brewmaster Johnson is her pint-pounding pal.
Their significant others are a case of opposites attracting. Her boyfriend is an older record producer played by Ron Livingston, whom she pops in on after a night drinking with her co-workers, and Johnson's fiancee is a teacher, played by Anna Kendrick, to whom he is devoted. And yet Johnson and Wilde have the easygoing camaraderie of people on the same wavelength, and seem like different people with their partners.
When the couples spend a weekend together at a Lake Michigan cottage and an awkward sexual tension develops, the question becomes less of anyone acting on it than its impact on the male-female friendship at the heart of the film.
Swanberg, often lumped in with the low-budget, indie-film mumblecore crowd, takes familiar genre variables and creates a playful and naturalistic film set in a vivid subculture that I don't think I've seen portrayed on film, populated by characters who feel real.
Wilde, late of "House," and Johnson, of "New Girl," have a unique chemistry that makes what they don't say seem as articulate as what they do say.
Fittingly, "Drinking Buddies" is showing at the local film-exhibition equivalent of a craft brewery: the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union Theatre, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.," at 9 p.m. Friday, and at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $6; $5 for UWM faculty, staff and Alumni Association members, seniors, and all non-UWM students; and $4 for UWM students.
Keep up with movies on film critic Duane Dudek's blog, The Dudek Abides: www.jsonline.com/dudek.
Drinking Buddies ***
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston
Behind the scenes: Produced by Paul Bernon, Sam Slater, Andrea Roa, Joe Swanberg, Alicia Van Couvering. Written and directed by Swanberg.
Rated: R; sexual references, language
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
Movie times and more details
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