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|8:30PM||Live Music by Lapland|
|10:30PM||Q&A with Joe Swanberg|
Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg | USA | 90 min.)
Joe Swanberg's unabashedly scrappy profiles tend to focus on perpetually inelegant people in search of meaning in their lives as they often struggle to find romantic satisfaction. In that regard, Drinking Buddies is familiar terrain, but this marks the first time the director has brought big name actors into his ensemble, working under the constraints of Swanberg's trademark improvisatory techniques, and they deliver.
Olivia Wilde, as craft brewery manager Kate, stands out as one half of an allegedly platonic relationship with her co-worker Luke (Jake Johnson), but it's evident early on that the hint of attraction between them faces a major roadblock: Both are embroiled in relationships. Luke leads a settled life with the curiously insecure Jill (Anna Kendrick), while the carefree Kate maintains a less serious fling with the affable Chris (Ron Livingston). This quartet forms the bulk of the movie in all its squirm-worthy awkwardness as the attractions shared by various characters shift around and we keep waiting for things to fall apart.
Alternately funny and heartbreaking, Drinking Buddies owes much to the investment of its cast. Wilde gives her most assertive performance to date, playing a witty, energetic personality who marks the strongest female character in the Swanberg universe since Hannah Takes the Stairs. At the other end of the spectrum, Kendrick's fragile turn shows her capacity for subdued roles far different from the material she's usually known for. Livingston, however, takes on the movie's greatest challenge by constantly toying with our sympathies: As tensions mount between Kate and Chris, it's never clear until the end whether he's the instigator or the victim. Drinking Buddies, out on VOD July 25 and in theaters on August 23, highlights the best of Swanberg's ability to scrutinize behavior in complex ways, but it also shows that he's perfectly capable of making a charming romantic comedy. At Rooftop and BAM, will be serving up the brews for a lovely night of drinking and film.
- Eric Kohn