Drinking-Buddies-PosterEver since his debut feature back in 2005, prolific director Joe Swanberg has been bringing out more than a film a year, and yet he is still waiting for that commercially triumphant piece to truly lift him off the ground and make him a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. However he may have just found that very film, with his latest production Drinking Buddies – and one that has already been stamped with the Quentin Tarantino seal of approval, as the renowned auteur named this production in his top ten of the year so far.

Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are colleagues at a brewery, as two employees who, let’s just say, like to take their work home with them at night – with various trips to the local bar, where they form quite an intense bond, as they carelessly flirt with one another, despite both being in relationships. However when they double date with their partners, Chris (Ron Livingston) and Jill (Anna Kendrick), respectively, to go on a weekend retreat to the country – they realise they would be much better suited together, but will they take the leap from being mere drinking buddies, to being in a fully fledged, romantic affair?

Given the vast majority of this film is improvised, it makes Drinking Buddies extremely naturalistic cinema, particularly as the dynamic between each differing relationship is so sincerely portrayed. There is the occasional scene where you feel a script would be beneficial, particularly the more intimate, emotionally charged sequences – yet on the whole this approach works well. The alcohol consumption – which plays a key role in the relationship between Kate and Luke – provides this tale with a bittersweet feeling however. We’re rooting for them to get together, yet a trepidation exists, as we question whether much lies beneath being drunk, and whether they would actually survive as a couple without alcohol tying them together. The scenes when do they do get drunk – something of a regularity where they’re concerned – are well-judged, never feeling particularly over the top or overstated. It isn’t ever glorified, nor is it vilified, it’s just honest.

That said, the film is somewhat unsubtle in places, as the way the characters’ evident feelings for one another are instantly introduced leaves little to the imagination. Conversely, Swanberg does ensure that certain aspects to the narrative are somewhat more elusive, as we don’t always see everything, with some of the key plot points happening behind our backs, so to speak. Meanwhile, there is a strong chemistry between our lead couple, and the same also applies for both Chris and Jill, who also seem much more suited to one another, sharing far more in common.

It’s encouraging to see that the other halves aren’t painted out to be villains either. It’s common in films such as this to dislike the supporting partners to help enhance our desire to see the protagonists come together – but in this instance they both seem like genuine people, both with their own positive, endearing qualities to their personality. Also, there were initial apprehensions in Wilde’s casting that perhaps she is a bit too ‘film star’ to play such a normal, everyday role, however she does a fine job in proving otherwise, as a character that is easy to connect with.

Drinking Buddies bears an extremely simplistic concept, and revels in such an approach. Given it follows a distinctly conventional formula, with the traditional, ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ premise, Swanberg turns in a commendable effort, managing to create something unique and absorbing despite the familiar surroundings, as hopefully this will be the film that propels this talented filmmaker towards greater success, allowing him the budget and creative license to try and push himself even further. This is a sentiment evidently shared by Tarantino, though he did put The Lone Ranger in his top 10 list too, so who knows what to believe.