Must-Watch Movie: 'Drinking Buddies'
Drinking Buddiesis an indie flick billed as a romantic comedy over the backdrop of a lot of a craft beer brewing. But this is not your typical Hollywood comedy featuring cookie cutter characters and clichéd plot lines. It's actually not much of a comedy at all, but more of an actors' movie that turns into a people study. The comedy is natural human interaction comedy not of the slapstick or ridiculous gag nature that your typical Kate Hudson movie is full of.
The main stars of Drinking Buddies are Kate and Luke, who both work at the real-life Revolution Brewing in Chicago. Kate and Luke are great friends with a natural chemistry between them; they love to drink and goof around together. Each has a more professional and thoughtful significant other, who both play important supporting roles.
The film opens with a brewery montage set to "Lady Luck" by Richard Swift, a musical choice that reminds me of a 1970's relationship drama more than a modern day romantic comedy and, like some of those movies, it avoids Hollywood stereotypes. The title track scene is set to still shots of Luke emptying a bag of grain into a mill and shots of malts and grains going through the auger into the mash. Basically the beginnings of the movie are the beginnings of a beer. From the opening scenes I was impressed with Drinking Buddies' attention to accuracy in terms of the craft beer industry. It seems to get everything right from a craft beer fan or brewer's perspective, right down to the lifestyle. For instance, at the end of the first scene, Kate bicycles instead of drives home from an after work drinking session at the bar, complete with a big messenger-style bike bag. She studiously refuses to drive for the whole movie, perhaps because she drinks so much?
This brings me to Olivia Wilde, who plays Kate, an operations manager/sales person at the brewery. Let's dwell on her for a second. The first time I took note of her as an actress was her role as a hybrid race of computer program came to life in the Tron sequel. In that flick she was perfectly cast as an android-like character grappling with humanity, a la Terminator or The Matrix. Olivia's crazy high and pronounced cheekbones, slick hair and eyebrows, and sharp eyes give her the look of a computer-generated hot supermodel who, while beautiful, could not possibly exist in real life. In fact, I am pretty sure I saw a life-like mannequin peering at me through the window of a lingerie shop. In other words, Olivia Wilde is like some sexy humanoid robot from the future sent to occupy men's new beer geek fantasies. Except in this flick, she actually shows some acting chops and tones down the supermodel good looks to become merely very attractive.
Drinking Buddies, while placed around a brewery and drinking culture, is first and foremost about the characters and their relationships. The first sign of trouble in Kate's and Chris's relationship comes when Kate returns from the bar to a patiently waiting Chris, played by Ron Livingston in a mostly thankless role, who has prepared dinner. Kate would rather pick off a bite from Chris plate than sit down for a meal with him and instead helps herself to another beer from the fridge as she exclaims under her breath, "I love beer!" while popping open a bottle. She notes that Chris has not had any of the beer she has brought home from work. I like how the director/writer never quite spells out why these characters relationships aren't working, but if you notice the small things, like the fact that Chris never drinks a beer and Kate is always reaching for one, it becomes clear.
The other main character, Luke, is a brewer at Revolution Brewing who enjoys beer and Kate and playing blackjack and not much else. Luke is played by Jake Johnson, a regular on the television show New Girl, although he is almost unrecognizable with a full bushy beard. That's another miniscule but important detail they get right; if this was a Hollywood flick he would be a well-groomed hunk. Instead he always wears a cap and ragged clows with an authentic beard. Luke seems to have a better relationship with his girlfriend, Jill, played by the loveable girl next door actress Anna Kendrick, who was so good in End of Watch. A genuinely good guy, Luke is a bit goofy, a heavy drinker, and yet is concerned and caring when he needs to be. Jake Johnson does a great job making his character feel like a real person.
The first signs of drama unfolding and the first flaw in the film come in the abrupt and unexplained scene jump to both of the couples going away to Chris's secluded cabin on the beach. Even in a romantic comedy, nothing good can come from a cabin scene for characters in a film. This whole chapter is too cliched for this movie and comes with no set-up of how the characters got there; it's the biggest flaw in a very simple plot. For the most part, writer/director Joe Swanberg dutifully obeys one of the first rules of filmmaking — "Show, don't tell." For instance, when Kate and Luke arise in the morning looking drowsy and reaching for coffee, their significant others are already coming back from a jog on the beach. Kate and Luke steadfastly avoid any sort of voluntary "work" after work other than drinking. Later, when Chris asks Luke and Kate whether they would like to take a hike in the woods, they both pass and he ends up talking relationships and philosophy with Chris's girlfriend Jill in the woods instead. Meanwhile, Luke and Kate couldn't care less what their partners were up to, they have a blast getting drunk and playing games all night. To no one's surprise, Chris and Jill end up making out by the end of their walk. From here I expected Drinking Buddies to delve into more well-tread ground,ie Luke and Kate fall for each other and their significant others for each other. But Drinking Buddies narrowly avoids this cliche. Immediately after returning from their trip, Chris breaks up with Kate freeing her up to sleep with another random brewer at Revolution. This clearly upsets Luke, but it's not clear whether it's out of jealousy or protectiveness for Kate, who seem to have a brother/sister relationship.
Throughout the film there are cool touches that beer geeks will appreciate, like all the real brewery merchandise Luke wears, from an Old Style hat to an Allagash T-shirt and Abita hoodie. Kate sports a Half Acre Beer Company tee, and there's even a verbal mention of Three Floyds Brewing. I also enjoyed how Kate and Luke are drinking beers in virtually every scene — the movie virtually suggests they are functioning alcoholics, especially in one scene where Kate comes into work and immediately pours herself a beer. I enjoyed small details, too, like the fact that they are not drinking just light lagers. In some scenes you can tell they are drinking anything from pale ales to stouts.
Later Luke finds himself with his girlfriend out of town and Kate needs help moving. Entering her apartment, she has not even packed or cleaned up since her birthday party; bottles are strewn about and the leftovers of a cake are sitting out. Now, at this point, if I was Luke I would be fuming with anger, but instead he helps her clean up and even stays the night to help the next day. You keep expecting something to happen here between them, but it never quite does in the way you expect. The filmmakers often seem to subtly suggest that Kate and Luke are like immature adults leading an irresponsible lifestyle, but never really condemns them for it. Clearly they are not built for the world of business suits and adult problems; instead, their lives revolve around drinking beer with friends. By the end of the film, I think everyone has embraced this notion and it may leave some wishing they had their lives, while others may be annoyed and jealous with the characters who are never forced to grow up.
Drinking Buddies has a natural sense of realism and almost documentary-like presentation of real life people and relationships. The performances in this flick are all pretty great, and I thought a lot of dialog must have been improvised. According to IMBD, it's all improvised, as the actors only had some idea of plot and scene order. Drinking Buddies is not hilarious, but it is humorous. Some of the more amusing scenes are in the trailer and revolve around Olivia Wilde's reactions to different things like the funny noises she makes after doing a shot of booze. Drinking Buddies feels sort of like an off-Broadway play and is not likely to inspire any strong feelings from Hollywood audiences, but you may identify with these characters. I certainly did.
Running Time: 95 minutes | Rating: R
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for the last 5 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to brewing beer. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series.
there are givens in movies: the big star never dies, action heroes shoot guns, femme fatales have long hair, there must be a scene in a toilet or bathroom, and you can't show a baby crying for more than 15 seconds. this is a mumblecore movie about four twentysomething people (two couples) so the givens are: they're confused about relationships, friendship matters as much or more than love, they can't complete a sentence without a slaw of particles ("uh", "um", "well", "really", "like", "so", etc.), and they're not full grown adults. they still have the egg tooth they used to hatch out of adolescence. they wear caps to bed, ride bikes to work, stay in other people's houses on the weekend and need friends to move to a new apartment. they flirt around without acknowledging they flirt around. they are good people partly because they don't know how to be bad people. there isn't any real drama, because drugs and guns are not involved and they fight by saying things like "you need to get real with this moment."
so, do you want to watch this movie or not? personally, and i'm medicare age, this took me back to my bartending days in the 70's and how messed up and confused sex and friendship really were. i thought the film was insightful and empathic, mixed humor and honesty, and brought four clever actors together, clever especially in their deadpan comic timing. the story shows you decent ordinary young people struggling with basic adult stuff, which is like watching eight year olds play scrabble. you smile, you want to help them out, but you can't. it's their game, and they have to work it all out for themselves.
DRINKING BUDDIES has divided critical opinion since its release in 2013: some reviewers have welcomed Joe Swanberg's film as an honest portrayal of thirtysomething characters and their inabilities to sustain long-lasting relationships others have berated it for its halting plot-lines, banal dialog and lack of closure.
Although billed as a comedy, the film pulls no punches in its depiction of all four central characters, whose inability to express themselves is palpable. Their frequent use of clichéd phraseology ("great," "awesome,") punctuated with frequent verbal pauses ("um.." "er. ") doesn't suggest inarticulateness, but a reluctance to disclose their true feelings, for fear of seeming weak or insecure. The title DRINKING BUDDIES is a suggestive one, for it is within a group situation in a bar, a glass of beer in hand, that sustains at least two of the characters, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson). They can either indulge in false bonhomie with their work colleagues, or refrain from talking altogether and play pool instead. Luke tries his best to recreate the same atmosphere wherever he goes when he and Kate accompany Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Chris (Ron Livingston) on a weekend away in the wilds of Michigan, Luke plays blackjack with Jill and Kate.
When the characters are removed from such situations, however, they are rendered virtually inarticulate. Chris finds it difficult to tell Kate that he wants to break up with her and even when he does, she refuses to believe him. Jill sits in bed with Luke and tries desperately to persuade him to think seriously about their forthcoming wedding Luke promises to do so, but we can understand from his body-language that he is simply trying to change the subject. In a climactic scene, Luke helps Jill to move house when they are finished, they spend the night together. We expect them to fall into one another's arms but instead they end up having a tiff. Their inarticulateness proves their undoing imprisoned by their linguistic and emotional hang-ups, they cannot discuss anything in a meaningful way.
Shot on a low-budget without musical accompaniment, Swanberg relies on a series of lengthy shot/reverse shot sequences to reinforce his thematic concerns. The camera lingers on the actors as they cast quick glances at one another, and then look away at something else - a beer glass, a pillow, a picnic hamper, or a picture. The objects within the frame provide them with emotional as well as physical refuge from the (painful) experience of having to understand what their interlocutors feel. They are alienated just like the viewer, who finds it difficult to sympathize with any of the protagonists.
The film ends on a note of cautious optimism, as Luke and Jill attempt some kind of (silent) reconciliation as they silently eat their lunches in a small room. It is significant, however, that neither of them look directly into one another's eyes in fact, they consciously avoid what for them is a painful maneuver. As a result we remain skeptical as to whether the two of them will actually make up at all they seemed to have learned nothing from their previous experiences.
DRINKING BUDDIES is in many ways a painful film to watch, as it lays bare the realities of living in a world whose inhabitants seem so busy that they never have time for one another. It communicates a series of human truths that we would do well to understand.
These are … how do you say … stressful times we’re living in. Extremely stressful. You may be cooped up in your home, with a bleak outlook on the current state of the world. The news is constantly reminding you that everyone is in a state of panic, and it seems like there’s no escape from this dark timeline we’ve stumbled into.
In times like these it’s important to have an escape. For most of us, that escape is a good movie. But, you probably don’t want to watch a bleak movie that’s just going to bring you down. (OK, apparently some of you do—2011’s Contagion is, at the time of writing, in the top ten iTunes rentals.) You do want a movie you can get peacefully lost in. So, for the sake of our collective mental health, here’s a list of sixteen movies (ranked in no particular order) that are basically digital NyQuil. These movies will help you ascend to a much more peaceful plane of existence. Sure, these movies do have moments where things go awry, but in totally okay ways that resolve into wonderful endings.
To help you indulge even further, I’ll list a companion piece (for an extra dose of peace) and a pairing of a calming food, drink, or self-care routine to match each movie, adding a new dimension of tranquility to your viewing experience.
1. Spirited Away
Ahh, yes. Sweeping animated landscapes, a minimalist soundscape, and the sweet surrender of a calming Miyazaki storyline. I always turn to a Miyazaki movie when I need something to cheer me up after a long day. Spirited Away is at the top of that list. There’s just something about the animation style and the slow pace of the film that calms me. The gentle piano combined with Miyazaki’s insanely complex natural soundscape is bliss. I can go on and on about the hypnotizing effects of Japanese narratives compared to Western narratives, but I’ll just let you watch the movie in peace.
Pairs well with: Green tea, steamed buns, and a hot shower.
2. Secondhand Lions
Remember when you’d go to your grandparents’ house and sit on their floral couch, all tucked into a handmade quilt? Your Grandpa would sit down on his recliner next to you and regale you with stories of his glory days? Well, if you condensed that entire feeling into a movie, it would be Secondhand Lions. The story is blanketed in the dark cloth of a boy who’s neglected by his mother and terrorized by the awful men she brings home. But, it’s all cleaned up by the wonderful pairing of Robert Duvall and Michael Caine as tough-as-nails grandpas with hearts of gold who give a young Haley Joel Osment the love and affection he so rightfully deserves. Oh, and there’s also a lion.
Pairs well with: A nice, hearty steak and giving your grandpa a call.
3. The Princess Bride
The king of all “story time” movies, The Princess Bride has collected many a child’s heart over the years. Reminiscent of the peace you felt staying home from school with a cup of chicken noodle soup, watching The Price is Right while you recovered from a sickness, this movie has all the elements to make someone curl even deeper into their blanket nest: A heartwarming story of true love, a gentle giant, and a man on a mission to avenge his father’s death.
Pairs well with: Chicken noodle soup and repeating the phrase, “My name is Inigo Montoya…”
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
If there’s one thing Richard Linklater is known for doing really well, it’s making movies about, well, nothing. The “slice of life” genre is his forte. Just watching his characters interact with each other, their environment, and the time period they’re in just makes you feel warm inside. It makes you nostalgic for a moment in history you probably didn’t even live in. Everybody Wants Some!! is about a team of baseball players making their way through the first days of college, and the freshman who’s getting a feel for the team, and girls, along the way. If you look back at your first day hanging out with a new group of friends fondly, this movie will hit you right in the feels.
Pairs well with: Lone Star beer and hitting things in your backyard with a baseball bat.
5. Moonrise Kingdom
I feel like posting Wes Anderson on this list is almost cheating. But, alas, it’s necessary to a collection like this. Moonrise Kingdom will bring about all of those feelings you had as a young child when you went camping for the first time (or just went on adventures in your backyard). But, more importantly, it will remind you of the first time you fell in love. If love isn’t your jam, then just let the absolutely gorgeous symmetry of Wes Anderson’s cinematography to lull you into a tranquil stupor.
Pairs well with: Hot dogs and a warm campfire.
6. Billy Madison
Okay, this may be the dark horse of the list, but I’m adding it for selfish reasons. I love a classic Adam Sandler movie—they’re incredibly fun, dumb romps. I’m reminded of popping Billy Madison into my VHS player as a kid and laughing my ass off, even though I was watching it for the thirty-second time. This is a movie you can truly shut your mind off for—just sit back, relax, and watch Adam Sandler in a tiny desk surrounded by a classroom of nine-year-olds.
Pairs well with: A sack lunch, a juice box, and Miles Davis.
7. Paddington 2
If you haven’t dove into the Paddington Cinematic Universe, you’re seriously depriving yourself of the warmest fuzzies you’ll ever experience watching a film. I was hesitant to watch this film at first. But, if you ask anyone who’s seen it, you’ll become an IMMEDIATE Paddington convert. If you read the Paddington 2 synopsis, it can be jarring to think of how this movie is labeled wholesome. A bear gets sent to prison? Like, what? But how can you not smile watching an animated bear become best friends with an entire prison population, after making them his famous marmalade sandwiches?
Companion pieces: Paddington
Pairs well with: Marmalade sandwiches and a stuffed teddy bear to cuddle.
8. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
What’s more fun than a cheeky high school senior faking a sick day to go on an adventure with his best friends? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. The namesake of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is always, somehow, one step ahead of his pesky principal, and you just can’t help but root for him. This is also coming from a John Hughes fanatic—for some reason, quirky 80s movies just get me. If you’re really having a bad day and you don’t want to see anything depressing, feel free to skip the majority of Cameron’s scenes.
Pairs well with: Chicago deep dish pizza, the Beatles, and Wayne Newton.
9. They Came Together
Nothing makes me happier than a truly stupid movie. And, the crowned prince of all stupid movies is David Wain‘s incredible Rom-Com parody, They Came Together. If you hate Rom-Coms because they all follow the same tired, old plot structure and stereotypical cast list, then you’ll absolutely adore this movie. It’s a campy extravaganza with a hell of a comedic cast. If that doesn’t sell you, just watch the movie so you can see Paul Rudd doing the most Paul Rudd things ever.
Pairs well with: Red wine, candy, and burning your copy of 27 Dresses.
10. Napoleon Dynamite
Stuff your pockets full of tater tots, grab a quesadilla, and get ready to rest easy watching the adorably geeky Napoleon Dynamite wade his way through love, friendship, and feeding his pet llama, Tina. You probably haven’t seen this movie in at least a decade, and all those “Vote For Pedro” shirts parading through your local mall are just a distant memory. But, there’s one special thing I need to tell you—this movie holds up. It’s always a gamble to watch your old favorites because they might not be as good as you remember them. Trust me on this one—you’re going to love it even more.
Pairs well with: Tater tots, quesadillas, and throwing a football a quarter mile.
11. The Overnight
As we take a quick jump over to the Mumblecore genre, I present to you my favorite of the subgroup—The Overnight. A couple who has just moved to Los Angeles, another eccentric couple who invites them over for dinner, and the night that changes their lives forever. If you’ve ever been on a double date with a couple that puts off strange vibes, then you’re going to love the feeling of this film. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll tell you this: On my first watch, I legitimately spit out my drink from laughter as I watched the ending unfold. You’ll know it when you see it.
Pairs well with: Red wine, Mexican food, and a hot tub.
12. Midnight in Paris
What’s not to love about seeing the fantastical artistic characters of the early 1900s Paris salon scene brought to life? Midnight in Paris is an extremely lovable movie wherein you get to see Pablo Picasso interacting with Ernest Hemingway, or Dali showing off his newest art pieces to Owen Wilson‘s head-in-the-clouds character who travels into the past during his trip to Paris. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, just watch the opening scene above, and I guarantee you’ll feel instantly calmer.
Companion piece: Annie Hall
Pairs well with: French bread and Absinthe.
13. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Okay, yes, I know I said I don’t like many Rom-Coms, but this one is totally different. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is an endearing story about family and the always-fun process of introducing a significant other to all of your siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and parents. The reason I’m including this is because it defies a lot of the tropes known to its genre. The couple actually pairs well together, and you are cheering for them all the way through. If it doesn’t make you love and appreciate your family, I don’t know what will.
Pairs well with: Greek food and Windex.
14. The Producers
Mel Brooks holds a special place in most of our hearts. Whether you grew up watching his films, or your dad had a couple fuzzy VHS tapes in his collection he’d let you watch when mom wasn’t home, I’m sure all of us have a very fond memory of watching one of his movies. The Producers is one of his greatest hits, utilizing the talents of Gene Wilder as the nervous Leo Bloom. This movie combines the fanfare of classic broadway with the timeless comedic power of a solid Mel Brooks film.
Pairs well with: Martinis and Broadway show tunes.
15. Singin’ in the Rain
If you’re looking for something that’s a little more classic Hollywood to lull you into sweet surrender, there’s no better option than Singin’ in the Rain. Gene Kelly is an absolute gem who just can’t help but put a smile on your face. And the endearing tunes throughout the film are sure to warm your cold heart. What beats a sweeping Hollywood overture when it comes to upping your mood?
Pairs well with: Popcorn and impromptu dance numbers in your living room.
16. Mamma Mia!
Come on — it’s ABBA! It’ll make you feel good. Shh. Surrender to ABBA.
Pairs well with: Singing with your best friends and courting three former lovers in Greece.
Want more ideas on what to watch? Learn more about film history and get some ideas here:
Bar Etiquette #9: Can You Cover Me
So you’re at the bar, and you’ve been drinking all night. And then, you’re counting your money up, right? So you come to the bar and I already see you counting your money, so I know that’s it’s not going to be… he’s not a big tipper, you know, he doesn’t even know if he has enough money to get another beer.
You think maybe it’ll be a good idea if I ask my friend here, my friend the bartender who’s been serving me all night… we’re buddies, yeah we’re buddies now. He’s served me three, four, five drinks now.
So you ask the bartender: “Hey man, I only.. I only got five bucks. I know it’s $5.25 for a beer. Do you think you can cover that for me?”
Do I think I can cover your beer for you?
So what you are asking the bartender in that case is, not only am I not going to tip you, but I would like you to reach into your pocket and grab 25 cents so I can continue drinking!
Don’t ask the bartender to cover your drinks. Ask your friends. Ask your girlfriend. Your boyfriend. Not the bartender.
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"The Bad News Bears" (1976)
“The Bad News Bears” isn’t actually about beer, per se. It’s about a misfit group of the worst little league baseball players in Southern California, who end up being managed by Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), an alcoholic swimming pool cleaner who always has a beer in hand. In fact, in the 1976 film’s opening scene, Buttermaker is shown pulling up to the ball field in a busted-up Cadillac, opening a can of beer, pouring a bit out on the ground and topping it off with some whiskey. At the film’s conclusion, the Bears — who overcome their inferior skills and nearly manage to win the championship — celebrate their efforts by sipping and spraying Buttermaker’s beers all over each other. Ah, the ‘70s.
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Drinking Buddies Movie
When is a mumblecore movie about middle-class hipster love not a mumblecore movie? When it stars Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick. In Drinking Buddies , Joe Swanberg’s disarming ramble of a romantic comedy, Wilde plays Kate, who works for a microbrewery run by Luke (Jake Johnson), her flirtatious and touchy-feely best pal. Both of them are in relationships: Kate with the dour, bookish Chris (Ron Livingston) Luke with the perky Jill (Kendrick), who adores him but isn’t sure he’ll go the distance. Neither are we. Drinking Buddies keeps us off balance about the vital question of who should be with whom. Each time we’re sure we know, Swanberg turns the tables, and does it with small shadings of talk and body language that give the movie its rich-brew bohemian flavor, even when what little plot there is just sits there. The actors all blend terrifically, making this the film equivalent of great hang time. B+ (Available on VOD)
Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilde Were Definitely Drunk on the Set of 'Drinking Buddies'
When you're filming a movie called Drinking Buddies&mdasha movie that's set in a Chicago brewery&mdashit's kind of inevitable that you would have a couple of many beers. But Olivia Wilde recently revealed that she (along with her other co-stars Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston) wasn't just buzzed, but buzzed in a way that only tailgate participants and college students can get away with&mdashstarting in the early morning hours until late at night.
"We were hammered the entire movie because it was real beer, because beer on that set was cheaper than water," she told Digital Spy.
She then recalled how Kendrick joined the set to film her scenes two weeks after production began, where the uninitiated star&mdashbefore realizing it was real beer&mdashtook a huge gulp of the brew.
"She was like, 'What's happening? What are you guys doing?' and we were like, 'Oh, we forgot to tell you&mdashthe beer's all real and everyone's drunk. It's 10am. Welcome to Drinking Buddies.'"
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
This comedic drama follows a week in the life of young folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Following the death of his partner, Davis struggles to make it as a musician during a harsh New York winter. With many seemingly insurmountable obstacles to overcome, the life of a folk musician is not a glamourous one. If you like the Coen Brothers as filmmakers, then you’re most likely going to enjoy this movie.
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Main Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Runtime: 110 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.5