Drinking Buddies is stupidly smart and funny. Another wonderful Swanberg piece with improvised dialogue packs enough drama and romance to keep it out of the romcom category. The story basically slices into the middle of a friendship and unwraps a lot of low-strung drama and reactive emotion at it. The two friends work at a beer brewery in Chicago and are as the title suggests drinking buddies. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson have chemistry-filled performances, maybe it was the beer. They did in fact drink beer during filming as they also worked and filmed at the brewery. Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston round up the cast and provide great balance and tensions to the story. There is much immaturity and ambiguity which paints a very natural picture of friendship and relationships in general.
Happy Christmas was sad and I loved it. The dialogue was completely improvised as per writer, director and producer Joe Swanberg. No script must have been a catalyst for a peculiar cast to put on a magical performance. Anna Kendrick doesn’t just hold her own as she wraps the viewer up around her finger and lets the charming story revolve around her. The underlying sadness and overall gloomy tone of the film is present throughout; never in your face but never hiding. It is a personal journey kind of story towards that seemingly intangible thing called happiness, with roads often leading away. Along the way there are subtle but impacting moments of wit, banter, humor and drama. Happy Christmas is accomplished in creativity and storytelling. It does not reach heartwarming or coming-of-age status, as it is not meant to. Instead it boasts interpersonal relationships and the realness involved in them.
A Long Way Down is a British dark comedy that sets up an intriguing plot of despair by banding together four lost souls at wit’s end. From there it is in fact a long way down and away from any deeper substance or real character exploration. So don’t expect a big morality discussion on suicide, a PSA about mental health, a unique perspective on depression or any Eat, Pray, Love moments. Yet the characters, despite lack luster portrayals, did succeed in drawing a connection in. This was probably due to a cast of quirky performances: Pierce Bronsan led the somber helm; Toni Collette had endearing moments; Imogen Poots’ character stole the show for better or worse; Aaron Paul felt a bit misplaced. Supporting roles by Rosamund Pike and Sam Neill were miniscule in the grand scheme but spot-on enough that they kept the film going. The novel that it is based on is probably not so discombobulating. Nonetheless, it is a tad heartwarming, sentimental and grim all in one.