To everyone that is scared away by a romantic comedy set inside a craft brewery, let me say this: Drinking Buddies is not a comedy and, depending on your perspective, may not be all that romantic. Yes, it deals with the subject of love, but in a messy way (and not just because one of the main characters is a brewer caked with sweat and grime). While the trailer is correct with the salient plot points (there are two couples and each person is attracted to the opposite-sex partner in the other couple), do not expect a lighthearted, easy going tone to the film.
The brewer, Luke (played by Jake Johnson of New Girl), is engaged to Jill (Anna Kendrick, who I adore) though they aren’t rushing to set a date. Luke works at the brewery with Kate (Olivia Wilde) and the two have an obvious connection (and good on-screen chemistry). Luke and Kate play the more free-spirited and adventurous part of this love-square, while Jill and Kate’s boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston) are more intellectual and focused. Everyone is attracted to the similar part of the other couple, which is where things start to get messy.
Except that the film doesn’t lead the characters to the obvious place (the bedroom). The furthest things go is a kiss. We observe from the outside as the characters play around the boundaries of the emotional affair, especially the work spouse dynamic of Luke and Kate. Not a whole lot happens in the film, possibly because most of the dialogue was improvised so there isn’t really any place to go. Drinking Buddies really could have used a subplot to explore its themes a little deeper and to pick up the pace a little.
What’s in the film for a craft beer lover? Not much really, aside from a couple of brewing montages, trying to figure out what beers they are drinking (Founder’s Centennial or Half Acre Daisy Cutter, for instance) and looking at the brewery t-shirts of Kate and Luke. (Jason Sudeikis also name drops 3 Floyds when talking about a staff trip.) There’s also a tracking shot that passes by some barrels being washed, so that happens.
The one subject the movie doesn’t touch on is alcoholism, though it is hard not to watch it and not wonder about the amount that people drink. There are few scenes that don’t involve Kate and Luke having a beer (plus the odd shot or two). Whether they are at a bar, home or work, beer is always being consumed. There are times when it seems like they may be abusing this access to beer, like a late scene where Kate comes into work and heads straight for the taps. The movie doesn’t condone or support the amount they drink, but it’s hard not to question their drinking habits (even for people that work at a brewery).
Drinking Buddies is not a must-see for beer lovers, though an interesting movie choice for those wanting a character-driven film about intimacy and fidelity. The performances from the four main cast members are all very natural and give a sense of verisimilitude to the film. If you like open ended movies that allow for debate and discussion, this fits the bill.
Drinking Buddies is now available to rent online and should be playing in Toronto starting September 6th.