'Buddies,' 'Year' take a cynical view on love

  • Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson star in "Drinking Buddies."

    Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson star in "Drinking Buddies."

Updated 8/22/2013 5:49 PM

Reel Life mini-reviews:

• Joe Swanberg's Chicago-shot rom (minus-the-com) "Drinking Buddies" isn't big on plot or gimmicks. It simply nails the reality of late twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings struggling with relationships -- friends and lovers.


As a dad of daughters ages 26 and 30, I admired Swanberg's accuracy in depicting the complexity and randomness of its characters, more real than those in reality TV shows.

Kate and Luke (Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson) work at the Half Acre Brewing Company in Chicago. Kate has been clearly mismatched with older lover Chris (Ron Livingston) for eight months. Luke just can't quite pop the question to his longtime girlfriend Jill (Anna Kendrick). Yet, Kate and Luke seem to be kindred spirits when plied with beer. Which they often are.

Swanberg could be channeling Paul Mazursky or France's Eric Rohmer here, so don't expect arch banter, deep insights, romantic clichés or tidy wrap-ups.

This movie needs time for its seemingly improvised dialogue and ambiguous, flawed characters to take root, grow and blossom. Given time -- and beer -- they will.

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"Drinking Buddies" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago. Rated R for language. 90 minutes. ★ ★ ★

• Dan Mazer's racy rom-com "I Give It a Year" is big on the concept of true love, but not so sold on marriage as an institutional godsend.

From the moment that novelist Josh (Rafe Spall) and media consultant Nat (Rose Byrne) marry after a quick seven months, we know this knot has never been tied very tight. The two wind up in couples therapy dishing out their discontent in a string of flashbacks.

It's bluntly apparent that Josh and his former girlfriend Chloe (an astonishingly matured, confident performance by Anna Faris) are the real deal, and that Nat's instant rapport with affable American client Guy (Simon Baker) signals true love.

Mazer, a Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator, directs this comedy without much snap, crackle or pop. Some intimate moments radiate charm, unlike Minnie Driver as Nat's cynical sister, one of the most unpleasant characters to hit the silver screen without fangs or a broom.


"I Give It a Year" opens at the Wilmette Theatre. Rated R for nudity, language, sexual situations. 97 minutes. ★ ★

Drive-in digs digital!
The McHenry Outdoor Theater is throwing a "Terror in the Aisles" horror marathon to finance its conversion to digital projection.

Hollywood filmmaker Fred Dekker decided to help. So, he'll be at the McHenry's horror-thon Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 to introduce his 1987 movie "The Monster Squad." Why?

"I went to the drive-in as a kid," he told me. "My dad was a big movie fan. I have very fond memories of being in my jammies and laying on the sleeping bag in the back of the station wagon and watching movies that have stayed with me to this day. I'm a drive-in kid!"

Why do movies like Dekker's 1986 slithery nightmare "Night of the Creeps" and drive-ins make such good bedfellows?

"I still don't have a clue," Dekker said. "It did occur to me that you can grab your date with impunity during the scary parts. Also, maybe the isolation of your car amps up the experience of being scared."

"Monster Squad" stars at 8:30 p.m. followed by Lucio Fulci's "Zombie," "Sleepaway Camp" and Mario Bava's "House of Exorcism." Tickets cost $10 ($5 for kids). Go to goldenagecinemas.com or facebook.com/terrorintheaisles

• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!

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