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Girls, Boys, and Drinking Buddies

Human behavior, when placed under a microscope, is interesting, even if the humans under the microscope are an infuriatingly specific and privileged class of people.

Yep, you guessed it—we're talking about mumblecore again.

Director Joe Swanberg is best known for Hannah Takes the Stairs and Nights and Weekends. His new film, Drinking Buddies, is about the tight friendship between Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), two coworkers at a brewery who flirt, share lunch, and go out for drinks—and who are both romantically involved with other people.

On the surface, these characters are just another installment of "Stuff White People Like." Who cares about these hot, drunken people and their nice apartments and glamorous lives?

But crank up the microscope and Drinking Buddies has a lot to say about gender dynamics in an age and social milieu where friends often stand in for extended family, where men and women regularly form friendships that don't lead to sex. Drinking Buddies doesn't come to any grand conclusions—it just puts some people in a Petri dish and lets 'em pinball around, crashing into each other and trying to navigate their feelings while not always understanding what, exactly, those feelings are.

The script was largely improvised, and some of the actors handle that challenge better than others: Johnson (aka, Nick on "New Girl") is natural and confident, and Wilde creates a character who seems genuinely fun to be around, but the usually unimpeachable Anna Kendrick turns in an unfocused performance as Luke's cold-footed fiancée.

Drinking Buddies is distinctly more polished than Swanberg's previous efforts. It is not an earth-shaking film—but within its admittedly narrow parameters, it has a lot to say.

dir. Joe Swanberg

Tin Pan Theater


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