Heads up for Olivia Wilde and friends in Drinking Buddies

by Mark Burger

Drinking Buddies (**) is an innocuous romantic comedy that was largely improvised — and it shows. The film’s got some appealing moments and the cast is good company, but its presentation is laid-back (even lackadaisical) in the extreme.

Kate (executive producer Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are the titular tippling friends, co-workers at a Chicago micro-brewery who like nothing more than hoisting a few cold ones after work and being in each others’ company. They’d probably be perfect together, except that Kate is dating Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke is living with Jill (Anna Kendrick).

How these romantic entanglements work themselves out would normally be the main thrust of a film like this one, but Drinking Buddies doesn’t arouse much interest beyond the comfortable chemistry of its cast members. Everyone’s likable, including filmmaker Ti West as a peripheral drinking buddy and Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s off-screen leading man) as Kate and Luke’s obnoxious supervisor. The character’s name is “Gene Dentler,” and in the end credits he’s billed as playing himself.

Joe Swanberg, the film’s writer/producer/editor/director, also appears briefly as a motorist who gets into a fistfight with Luke while the latter is helping Kate move furniture.

Whether or not Kate and Luke end up together is, more or less, left undecided. Probably they do, but who knows? It’s not a pressing issue in any case.

Drinking Buddies is scheduled to open Friday in Winston-Salem.