SXSW Review: 'Drinking Buddies'

Swanberg's film is deftly directed but leaves an aftertaste

Hyperproductive writer/director/sometimes actor/occasional nudist Joe Swanberg returns to SXSW with the world premiere of his most ambitious film to date. But does it get women right?

'Drinking Buddies'
In Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel Gone Girl, the titular character describes the archetypal “cool girl” that every guy loves: “the Cool Girl … adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping [and] plays video games, drinks cheap beer … and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth … while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot.”

In Drinking Buddies, Olivia Wilde breathes life into that fantasy female as Kate, the brewery publicist whom every man in her orbit wants to possess but doesn’t quite know how to do it. Luke (a beardy Jake Johnson, from TV's New Girl) comes the closest but is circumscribed by his near-marriage to Jill, played with sweet insecurity by Anna Kendrick, who demonstrates new facets of her considerable chops with each new role.

Swanberg's direction is deft, building dramatic tension in mundane moments, such as when Kate plucks Brussels sprouts from the plate of her tightly wound boyfriend, Chris (Ron Livingston), or in Luke's subtle attempts to be Kate's knight in shining armor, whether she needs or wants that aid. This attention to the details render this a heavily improvised hipster novella drawn in miniature, with an indie-cred soundtrack to match.

Yet while the movie is often funny and engaging, with its focus on the tiny interpersonal dramas of life, the tiresome reliance on lazy, misogynistic conceptions of women leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Drinking Buddies screens again Wednesday, March 13, 9:30pm, Topfer, and Saturday, March 16, 11am, Rollins.

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