For those not in the know, this writer is a self-proclaimed movie-buff. Those with whom I enjoy occasional conversation would not dispute this, as films will usually be my next topic of conversation after beer.
And when it comes to my advocacy for small and mid-size breweries there is no question where I stand - I'm all about the "little guy". Often this is done through support of local breweries like Two Beers, Reuben's Brews, Burnside, Oakshire, or Block 15. This isn't to say that I don't support the likes of Lost Abbey, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, or Samuel Adams. But my passion is supporting that small 12% of the market that is made up of our neighborhood breweries.
So like many people out there who are fans of cinema and smaller craft breweries, I was left supporting Sideways as my flagship film.
For those unfamiliar with the film: Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) is an unsuccessful writer, a wine-aficionado, and a divorced, depressed, and borderline alcoholic middle-aged English teacher living in San Diego, who takes his soon-to-be-married actor friend and college roommate, Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church), on a road trip through Santa Ynez Valley wine country. (source: Wikipedia)
What turned me onto Sideways was the prospect of taking a road trip with the sole purpose of enjoying copious amounts of beer with a good friend.
But this is reality and breweries aren't nestled amongst the fields of hops or barley; instead they are found where the people are, near taverns, alehouses, and pubs. So any thought of cruising along a country road picking up rare bottles of beers should be forgotten. Which is why I have been searching for a film that represents the reality of the brewing industry. Then I saw Joe Swanberg take a crack at a beer lovers movie in "Drinking Buddies".
Released earlier this year to a limited audience, Drinking Buddies is a story of best friends of the opposite sex, working at a brewery while coping with their relationships.
Filmed on location in Chicago at Revolution Brewing, the film revolves around best friends Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), their coexistence at the brewery, and their separate relationships. Backing up the story are Kate's boyfriend Chris (played by Office Space's Ron Livingston) and Luke's girlfriend Jill (Anna Kendrick, of Up in the Air).
Fun movie fact – The tattoo featured on Jake Johnson’s arm is the flag of Chicago and was added by Jake to make his character seem more authentic (as a Chicagoan).
What makes this film a good vehicle to represent the brewing industry is the use of Revolution Brewing as a primary backdrop while Kate & Luke work together. It helps that the actors aren't just taking sips of Anti-Hero India Pale Ale or Robust Porter, while employees are working in the background. Instead you see actor Jake Johnson rinsing stainless-steel kegs and scrubbing the mash tun, Olivia Wilde helping a couple find their 'wedding beer' and calling up distributors, all while kicking back after shift to enjoy a pint of Revolution.
All of this precision can be traced back to the film's director, and a home brew kit in 2009. In fact to ensure accuracy of what it means to brew beer, he put the crew through a 'brew camp' of sorts. There the actors assisted with brewing beer, complete with lifting grain bags, adding hop additions, and understanding what it means to truly be a brewer.
Fun movie fact – The crew were asked to participate in brewing beer as preparation for their roles working at Revolution. For Director Joe Swanberg, this was one of his dreams ever since he received his homebrew kit.
What makes this film even more unique to this cinephile, is the continued use of Mumblecore (a process leveraged in independent, low-budget films which makes use of a more natural/improvised dialog). Swanberg is one of only a handful of directors that use this method, and the use of free-flowing improvisation appears to have worked to the strengths of the seasoned actors.
Fun movie fact – Actors Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson would later text each other later that evening. after they shot one of the film’s more heated exchanges between their characters. In fact Olivia wanted to make sure that Jake wasn’t upset given how real the exchange looked.
Final thoughts. You Should Drink (er, Watch) This
In the end I think that Drinking Games is a film worth your two hours to watch and think about while sipping on something that came from the hop fields of the Yakima valley.
As of this review, Drinking Buddies is available on both iTunes and Google Play with a wider theater release scheduled for August 23rd. Drinking Buddies is rated R.