When is a rom-com not a rom-com? When it's Drinking Buddies. To call this film just a rom-com is to do it a great disservice – Drinking Buddies is a clever, compelling and very funny romantic comedy-drama that has much more going for it than just a quartet of engaging lead actors.
Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) are colleagues at a boutique brewery. He's a brewery, and she works in marketing. They're also great buds, hanging out together at lunchtimes and sometimes going for drinks after work. You'd think they were the perfect couple, but she is dating Chris Livingston) and he's engaged to Jill (Kendrick). But when the four of them go away to a cabin in the woods for a weekend, relationships come a little unstuck.
This is really an actors' move, and the four leads here all shine. Writer-director Swanberg simply wrote an outline for a script, leaving the dialogue for his cast to improvise during the shoot – and boy it works. The conversations, and relationships, feel more real than you are used to seeing on screen.
Wilde and Johnson are utterly convincing as friends – you would swear that they have known each other for years. It's great, too, to see Wilde finally allowed to show just what a great actress she is, rather than playing the usual wife or girlfriend. All the characters are complex, believable people that you can easily relate to, quite a rare thing in cinema.
Swanberg cleverly sets up his film using the well-known rom-com tropes, but then veers off into surprising directions. Drinking Buddies is very funny, but also bittersweet; it balances the humour and the drama, and is one of the most engaging films of the year.
EXTRAS ★★★ There's a hugely entertaining audio commentary with writer-director Swanberg and producers Andrea Roa and Alicia Van Couvering (they're drinking beeer throughout it); Deleted Scenes & Outtakes (6:58); Cast Interviews (12:57), featuring Wilde, Johnson, Kendrick and Livingston; the featurette A Look At Drinking Buddies (3:22); and the featurette Behind The Scenes At Revolution Brewing (4:06).• Round table interview: Joe Swanberg on Drinking Buddies