A wryly observant relationship dramedy from writer-director Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies has the sort of modesty and intimacy that would benefit bigger-budgeted Hollywood attempts at such stories. It’s cozy, and that’s largely why it works.
Olivia Wilde stars as Kate, an event manager at a Chicago microbrewery who has a chummy, teasing, flirty relationship with a coworker named Luke (Jake Johnson). Her boyfriend, however, is the less amiable Chris (Ron Livingston), while Luke is in a long-term relationship with Jill (Anna Kendrick), a special-education teacher eager for marriage.
As the four become closer friends, you can probably guess what happens. The narrative decks are pretty stacked here, so that Drinking Buddies doesn’t really work as compelling drama (and I’m not enough of a Jake Johnson fan to enjoy it as comedy). It’s not only that Chris and Jill are mismatches for their respective romantic partners; they’re mismatches for the movie’s overall hipster-granola aesthetic.
Still, the film has an achingly vulnerable performance from Wilde, whose career so far has mostly taken place on the sidelines of action movies. And Swanberg does manage an elegantly simple final scene that speaks to the movie’s endearing nonchalance. Drinking Buddies won’t change your world, but it’s a nice movie to have a beer with.