There's some irony in the fact that Joe Swanberg, the archetypal champion of microbudget cinema, has made his greatest film in his first at-bat in the financial big leagues. Yet it's also telling that, for all its movie stars and production value, Drinking Buddies
fits comfortably within Swanberg's growing niche oeuvre. With dexterity and care Swanberg illuminates our muddled perceptions of our own relationships. He fixates on the minutiae of hanging out, the feints and thrusts we make in sorting matters of head and heart. His conflicted central characters are Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), co-workers at a Chicago brewery. We're initiated to the rhythms of their lives-- shooting the shit with co-workers, pool at the local bar. Luke and Kate seem perfect for one another, but since they're both in serious relationships, neither will acknowledge their flighty sexual tension. Kate and Luke's significant others are each a notch or two down on the totem pole of hipness; if Luke's girlfriend, Jill (Anna Kendrick), and Kate's boyfriend, Chris (Ron Livingston), are happy to grab small-batch ales at the pub before they get to bed at a reasonable hour, Luke and Kate are more likely to close the place down. Soon, the foursome heads off for a weekend at Chris's beach house, but if you think you know where this is going, you’re probably mistaken. Swanberg never works with scripts-- he writes an outline and lets his performers fill in the dialogue, imbuing the scenes with a potent realism that at times feels documentary-like. He is enamored with the feeling of an honest moment. He relishes-- and captures-- people being people.