Director Joe Swanberg Stars Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston USA 2013 Language English 1hr 30mins Colour
Indie beer, hipsters, complicated romantic lives
This might be the most 2013 film that will be made. It’s set in a craft brewery. There’s a lot of facial hair*. People listening to acousticky stuff on vinyl. Americans drinking stout without feeling compelled to mention the Easter Rising. People who sell stuff at farmers’ markets. All that**.
The title characters are Kate (Olivia Wilde), who does sales, marketing and events at the Revolution Brewery, and Luke (Jake Johnson), who actually makes beer. They have lunch together every day, and hit the bar after work with the other work dudes (and other than Kate, they are dudes). They have private jokes. They’re like soulmates, man.
He’s in a long-term relationship with a special needs teacher (Anna Kendrick), she’s more recently with an older record producer (Ron Livingston). Both the other halves are (hiss) wine drinkers by preference. And the four of them go for a weekend in a cabin by a lake…
So, yes, this is an attempt to look at the When Harry Met Sally question of whether men and women can be friends, close friends. But let’s be clear, this isn’t a Jennifer Aniston movie, nor, despite the title, a sub-Judd Apatow one, nor is it much like the sitcoms in which assorted cast members do/have earned their keep***. For a while, despite all the baseball caps, it feels rather French, and not the good kind of French. Fortunately, it gets past that. It’s all unscripted – as have been the previous films made by Joe Swanberg, who came up as part of the mumblecore movement but seems to be edging closer to the mainstream – but it never has that self-conscious improvy vibe.
One of the key moments comes when Luke volunteers to help Kate move. You should never volunteer to help someone move. You’ll work like a bastard, probably damage yourself, and get no thanks because the person moving is traumatised by what they are doing. It’s a well-chosen, true-to-life moment.
A character-driven film like this one can stand or fall on the ending every bit as much as an action movie. I bought the ending. I liked the ending. It made me like the rest of the film more. It’s good, it’s smart, it’s grown-up(ish). But it did make me think maybe I needed to lose the beard.
*That poster lies: Johnson has a big beard – almost the full Saul – all the way through the movie.
**Grrr, farmers’ markets. Jay Rayner is on the right lines, but he doesn’t go far enough.
***You might feel this is a bit of a busman’s holiday for Jake Johnson from playing a bartender trying to work out if he is in love with his flatmate in New Girl.