Drinking Buddies

October 19, 2014


Drinking Buddies frankly surprised me. And it’s my fault for not understanding who the filmmaker was to begin with. If I had known I would have been more acquainted with the guerrilla cinematography which provides a more sophisticated gonzo portrait of the intimate spacing between people’s friendships and relationships. I also would not have been as surprised to see such a performance by Olivia Wilde, with her tomboy played perfectly here, in another ode to the extreme politics played in Academy Award nominations. Yes, her performance here is clearly above 3/5ths of the competition, but because the filmmaker, Joe Swanberg, is independently creative, he has no voice in the halls of the powerful.


The story is very simple. It is about a pair of drinkers who have found the perfect job to mask their dependency on brew, which is working at a brewery. I can’t say if they drink more than their ancestors did after a day of hard work, but it is to say they drink often. There is no effort here to symbolize their drinking as anything but a happy social pastime. And Mr. Swanberg does not make any forceful attempts to extrapolate a deeper meditative meaning to anything in the story. He is simply a national geographic cameraman, recording the testimony of one particular human experience. Yes, it is of the mundane, but this is how people live. They talk about wedding plans, and they talk about where their relationships are not working out. And in the rare instances, incredibly strong platonic relationships are formed, which is witnessed here.


The entire underlying tension in the film is whether the drinking buddies will turn romantic. The audience waits and anticipates the turning point in which things go from more than just sharing sandwiches and fries, to sharing a place to sleep, to something deeper which makes these things daily habits. For what is partial is the compatibility of the two persons contrasted to their significant others. The motive in the mind of the viewer is that it is right that the extremity monogamy with each is discarded so that the one true romance can become fulfilled.


But is life always this fantastical? Is this what romance is supposed to be? Clearly we know nothing about who these people are. It is wishful and hopeful to want to extrapolate some existential certainty, a fate, that these are star-crossed lovers. But that is merely projecting naïve optimism on reality. The truth is much messier than a simple detachment from serious long-term commitments. LTRs involve responsibility, and maturity. It’s commendable then that Luke stays devoted to his woman throughout. Even when she admitted a minor infraction. It shows not that Mr. Swanberg is attempting to be coy by forcing us to reveal our juvenile romantic aspirations, but that one can be young and serious at the same time. That while relationships today are as fleeting as a flick of the smart phone, there still exist Rocks of Gibraltar that inconspicuously replant the seeds of civilization against nihilism.


Grade: A



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