Movie review: “Drinking Buddies” taps into complicated relationships

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.