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MD Film Festival Update: Drinking Buddies goes down easy

May 10, 2013
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At a QnA session following the second screening of his film Drinking Buddies at the Maryland Film Festival Friday, director Joe Swanberg likened his status as an independent filmmaker to that of a small-time brewer. It was an apt comparison, given that his comedy/drama hybrid is set largely in a brewery

If Swanberg was indeed a brewer, Drinking Buddies might be a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: accessible enough to be consumed by those who eschew indie movies. Familiar faces like Office Space‘s Ron Livingston, House‘s Olivia Wilde, and SNL‘s Jason Sudeikis (whose role is one of the least comedic in the film) will draw in mainstream moviegoers, but cinematatographer Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild) will appeal to Charles Theatre regulars. And the Magnolia Pictures-distributed movie—anticipated on VOD July 25 and in theaters Aug. 23 (a Baltimore run is still pending)—explores relatable dynamics at home and in the workplace with an artfulness that will win over both crowds.

Two boyfriend-girlfriend couples form the nucleus of the film: Kate (Wilde) and Chris (Livingston), and Luke (Jake Johnson) and Jill (Anna Kendrick). Perpetually hungover Kate and goofy, boisterous Luke work at the same craft brewery in Chicago, Kate schedules tastings and manages promotions, Luke brews. The two co-workers have a very affectionate relationship; they look forward to eating lunch together. Jill teaches and Chris produces music, but that’s not really important. Kate and Jill interact just fine—no tension or jealousy is expressed—and the couples enjoy each other’s company enough to go on a weekend trip to Michigan together. While there, the inter-couple interplay grows somewhat dicey. But it’s not there that the film’s core unfolds, thankfully, and the remaining tension and resolution (or lack thereof) that awaits plays out in a realistic fashion.

As refreshing and enjoyable as it is, one hopes that Drinking Buddies holds up as well as Sierra Nevada, and not Pete’s Wicked Ale.