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Case Number 26665

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Drinking Buddies

Magnolia Pictures // 2013 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Jason Panella // December 11th, 2013

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All Rise...

Sit down and let Judge Jason Panella pour you a cold one.

The Charge

A comedy about knowing when to say when.

Opening Statement

Microbrews and micro-budgets.

Facts of the Case

Kate (Olivia Wilde, Tron: Legacy) and Luke (Jake Johnson, New Girl) work together at a microbrewery in Chicago. They seem like perfect couple material, but both are already in relationships—Kate with Chris (Ron Livingston, Office Space), a record producer, and Luke with Jill (Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air), a teacher. The couples are serious, but…what if Luke and Kate are really right for each other?

The Evidence

Drinking Buddies is the sort of "romantic-comedy" I wish were more common—it's realistic, measured, and surprisingly not that funny or romantic. Or more accurately, the movie isn't uproariously funny; instead, it taps into the small bits of humor that skip from conversation to conversation in ordinary conversations.

This makes sense, since writer/director/low-budget all-star Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs) shot the film with little more than a short outline of the film's main plot points. The improvised dialog gives the characters a lovingly worn nature; they feel like real people, not characters in a movie.

Drinking Buddies spends most of its time watching the four leads interact, which is a good thing as the cast is quite good. Wilde and Johnson in particular shade their characters carefully. Wilde's Kate, for instance, is at times frustratingly selfish, but never so much that it alienates her from the audience. She comes across as a normal human being. This sort of thing is par for the course for the mumblecore genre, and it plays out exceptionally well here. There are a few nice supporting parts, too, including Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) as the brewery's owner and director Ti West (House of the Devil) as one of Kate and Luke's dorky co-workers.

Swanberg's films often explore how relationships are helped or hindered by a variety of factors, and Drinking Buddies continues the trend. The four leads are never far from a bottle of craft beer or, in Chris's case, a fine wine. Some characters can't seem to start a conversation until they have a drink in hand.The movie celebrates how fun it can be to kick back with friends and enjoy some tasty beverages, but it also points out how alcohol can unintentionally change or even harm relationships. Drinking Buddies never, ever becomes a "message" movie, thankfully, but it does trouble the notion that "booze" and "great time" are somehow synonymous.

Magnolia Home Entertainment's release of Drinking Buddies gets the job done with its 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby 5.1 surround track. The extras are a little better: the film's trailer; a set of outtakes and deleted scenes with optional director commentary (7:15); interviews with the cast (12:54); the short featurette "AXS TV: A Look At Drinking Buddies" (3:15); "Behind the Scenes at Revolutionary Brewing" (4:15), a look at the where the film was set; and the excellent episode of "All Things Drinking" (29:37), which features Swanberg talking at length about craft beer and the film. The film also includes an option audio commentary with Swanberg and producers Andrea Roa and Alicia Van Couvering.

Closing Statement

Don't be misled by this film's promotional material. Drinking Buddies isn't a feel good rom-com, but it is a humane and thoughtful exploration of relationships that's absolutely worth checking out.

The Verdict

Not *glug* guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 82
Audio: 84
Extras: 88
Acting: 93
Story: 91
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (SDH)
• Spanish
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Drama
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Interviews


• IMDb

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