Clever and witty, Drinking Buddies tells the tale of two pals caught in the friend zone. The film stars Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson as Kate and Luke, co-workers in a brewery whose private lives intertwine a bit too close for comfort. We spoke to director Joe Swanberg about the film, the Mumblecore movement, rom-coms and more.
This film poses an interesting question- ‘can women and men ever be friends?’ why did you want to tackle that?
Joe: “I think this is an important question, and the answer is shifting all the time. The traditional roles of men and women are changing, and that impacts how men and women relate as friends.”
Locating it in the craft beer world was interesting (it’s like you’re throwing alcohol into the mix of Luke and Jill’s uncertain relationship) was that your intention behind the setting?
"I am a home brewer and a beer lover, so I had selfish reasons for wanting to set the film in a brewery, but I also knew that alcohol would complicate Kate and Luke's workplace flirtation and have interesting ramifications on Luke's relationship with Jill. I also think breweries are beautiful and I knew it would be fun to photograph."
Would you say it’s a ‘rom-com’?
“It's my kind of 'rom-com.' I didn't want it to be funny all the time. I think there's room in comedies for some seriousness. Paul Mazursky's film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was a big inspiration for me. That film does a good job being a comedy while also getting into serious relationship issues”
How much improvising was there with the cast on set- did they draw from their own experiences?
“All of the dialogue in the film was improvised and I encouraged the cast to draw from their own experiences as much as possible. The film is personal for me as well, so it ends up being a combination of the cast's life and my life mixing into one.”
What are your thoughts on Mumblecore now?
“I feel very lucky to have been affiliated with Mumblecore. My small films received a much bigger audience because of that word, and because of the idea of a movement. It was all very accidental, but it was helpful for us.”
Some people have seen it as a ‘hipster film’, what do you think of that description?
“I'm fine with that. It's accurate to some extent. "Hipster" is another word, like "mumblecore," with constantly shifting definitions. I tried to make a film about real people who I know and witness in my life, without questions about whether those characters were hipsters or not. It never crosses my mind.”
Moving into a bigger budget and Hollywood actors how was that leap?
“It was a blast. I've never had more fun making a movie. I feel very lucky that I was able to work with great producers, great actors, and a great crew. The atmosphere on set was light and fun and I'm proud of the work we made.”
Drinking Buddies is out on general release from Friday