Drinking Buddies is an independent film released in 2013 starring Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson with Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston thrown in for support. It is available on Netflix streaming and most VOD sites and definitely worth your time and money. For a quick taste, here is a trailer:
Not bad, right? Drinking Buddies, for me at least, falls under an unclear category. It is not a straight comedy nor a drama and unlike most films produced in today’s market, it does not follow the standard narrative arc that would be expected from a film. There is a definite resolution/conclusion, but it is just not the one most people would expect to see. I think the fact that it is an indie film and thus has lower obligations/expectations helps in crafting a narrative that is satisfying and believable without falling into cliche or simply repeating previous examples.
To reiterate, I highly recommend this film and if you have any desire to watch it based on the trailer then stop reading now.
Seriously, SPOILERS ahead.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So the main lessons, I want to discuss, or take away, from Drinking Buddies deal with the core of the film’s narrative and issue: can a man and a woman be just friends? There are various opposing opinions concerning this question with both justifiable and ridiculous reasons. The film explores this quandary through the relationship of Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson).
They are the titular buddies that work together at a small brewery. They are both attractive, fun, young individuals who enjoy the same beer, laugh at the same jokes, share many similarities, and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. In any other film, they would either be the happy-go-lucky couple envied by everyone else or somehow end up together at the end of the film if they weren’t already dating.
What sets this film apart is simply that they do not. Don’t get me wrong; there is apparent chemistry between the two characters (and between the two actors) that they have to deal with through the course of the film. However, by the film’s conclusion they realize that while there is an attraction there relationship only really works as friends, which they remain. This is the best part. Once the realization sets in, there is no animosity between the two and they manage to go back to their usual repertoire without incident.
So first lesson, men and women can be friends but only if that is what they both want. That is the essential truth. For all the supposed differences and games that the sexes play, they are really rather similar. Like any other friendship, in order for women and men to be friends requires them to be honest, put in effort, and actually want to be friends. Luke and Kate reach that point where they understand they can only be friends and instead of fighting against it or trying some other method, they accept it and move on. It is a bit sad how uncommon a story that is.
Of course, this epiphany didn’t simply pop up, which brings us to the next lesson: at some point you have to give up the fantasy and appreciate what you have in reality. Luke, on top of attracting Kate, is also dating Jill (Anna Kendrick). Basically, Luke is a lucky bastard. In the film, we see Jill wanting to make a more serious connection with her boyfriend, but Luke is hesitant for some reason. (His lingering feelings for Kate, obviously). He cannot fully commit to Jill and this causes a riff between them that is further exacerbated by his shenanigans with Kate. Still, Luke wants to have a mature and committed relationship, but he foolishly believes this is possible with Kate. Near the film’s end, he finally understands that what he desired was with Jill all along and he is able to commit to what he has with her.
Thus endeth today’s lesson. Go open up a beer, watch Drinking Buddies, and see if you can find any other moral virtues worth espousing.