Movie review: “Drinking Buddies” taps into complicated relationships

By Columbus Alive
From the September 12, 2013 edition

Craft beer is an acquired taste. If you’re weaned on watery Natty Light, the bitter complexities of, say, a hop-blasted IPA isn’t going to match your palette.

The beer-centric “Drinking Buddies” is similarly complex, a movie somewhat mismarketed as a light rom-com due to the comedy pedigree of some cast members. It works better as a thoughtful drama of the bitter complexities of relationships.

Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work at a brewery — specifically real-life Chicago brewery Revolution Brewing. They’re fast pals at work, sharing laughs, lunch breaks and after-work beers.

They also are both in relationships, Kate with Chris (Ron Livingston), a successful music producer, and Luke with Jill (Anna Kendrick), his girlfriend of six years.

A weekend getaway at a cabin blurs the lines of attraction, and both couples deal with the repercussions.

Directed by sometimes-actor Joe Swanberg, “Drinking Buddies” was unscripted save for a general outline of the plot. Fortunately, the cast is up to task.

Wilde, long an actress I’ve been watching who seems to have a knack for picking bad projects, finally shows her chops. Johnson (of TV’s “The New Girl”) also stretches his boundaries, and Kendrick is a scene-stealer in support.

If you go for laughs, you’ll come away disappointed, as this movie is closer to a lighter version of “Closer” than to a wacky comedy.

But it also doesn’t cop to clichés and keeps its blurred lines real. That tastes good to me.