The names are bigger, the flow is smoother, but the voyeuristic aimlessness still prevails in indie stalwart Joe Swanberg's latest film, the breezily charming "Drinking Buddies."
The action — a term used loosely with regards to Swanberg ("Hannah Takes the Stairs," "LOL") — swirls around craft brewery coworkers Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), cozy chums whose jokey, caring, pint-hoisting closeness has everything a relationship seemingly needs except deal-clinching carnality. In fact, chivalrous Luke's already got a perfectly easygoing fiancée named Jill (Anna Kendrick, reliably winning), and guy's gal Kate has an attentive boyfriend (Ron Livingston).
A camping weekend for the foursome seems to shift things, but maybe not really. Same with a long day spent helping Kate move when Jill is away. Motivated by the belief that scenes of gently needling camaraderie (in which little is addressed but plenty is hinted at) are more than enough, Swanberg achieves an occasionally heady aura of improvisational flirtatiousness mixed with a churning will-they-or-won't-they suspense.
This is nurtured mightily by the attractive byplay of Wilde and Johnson, who seamlessly convey the type of winking intimates for whom beers and laughs aren't a boundary-melting lubricant but a friendly, safe haven from adult matters and clarifying communication.
"Drinking Buddies." Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Rated R for language throughout. Playing at the NuArt.
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