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A good drinking buddy, Olivia Wilde says, “has to have a sense of humor, be able to hold their alcohol and know when to say when.”
Jake Johnson suggests, too that “you have to be able to drink a lot and not get too sensitive, because that gets weird.”
Wilde, a fanboy icon since her breakout performance in “Tron: Legacy,” and Johnson, of TV’s “The New Girl” and the indie sci-fi hit “Safety Not Guaranteed,” pair up as micro-brewery colleagues who have so much in common that they really should be lovers — but aren’t — in “Drinking Buddies,” an indie dramedy from Joe “Nights and Weekends” Swanberg.
Though “Drinking Buddies” has opened to enthusiastic reviews, with the willowy Wilde in particular earning praise for going indie (no makeup) and giving “her most assertive performance to date” (Indiewire), she’s not most people’s idea of a beer drinker. Too skinny.
“Oh, she can handle her alcohol,” laughs Johnson.
And Johnson? “He’s the perfect drinking buddy,” Wilde says. “He’s hilarious, and he does great impressions. My favorite — he does his DAD. Brilliant, and I’d make him do that one every time he got a little bit wasted on the set. Which was usually by lunchtime on this movie.”
“Wasted” and “by lunchtime”?
“All of the drinking in this movie was real,” Johnson declares. “No fake beer. Joe Swanberg said ‘By agreeing to do this movie, you’re agreeing to enjoy some really great locally-brewed beers.”
They filmed in Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, a real microbrewery where Johnson’s character makes beer and Wilde’s has to market it. They may sample something, here and there, during the work day. But after hours, these “Drinking Buddies,” both living with other people, really taste the hops.
“I credit my Irish heritage,” jokes Wilde. “Yeah, I’m skinny, but I have a hollow leg. And I’m an expensive date, because of it.”
And the movie, with its wistful, suds-soaked take on workplace romance and realizing that love is as much about timing as compatibility, changed everybody on it. Wilde had to take off a bit of beer gut afterwards. And Johnson?
“It ruined me. I became a beer snob. We ALL did. All these great local breweries are popping up, beers brewed by artists. If you’re going to drink a beer, ask for what’s local.”
That’s a big hook in the movie, Wilde says, its beer brewing milieu. Craft breweries some time ago joined coffee snobbery and the products of boutique wineries as a part of the discriminating consumer’s palette.
“This craft beer world we’re a part of in this movie is not about getting drunk,” she says. “These characters really believe they’re doing this complex, rare thing that they take great pride in. They’re picky drinkers. These aren’t kids chugging Budweiser in the backyard to get wasted.”
He and Wilde fell for the product of the brewery where the movie is set — Revolution. And both Angelinos developed a taste for Three Floyds Brewery,” just across the border in Munster, Indiana,” Johnson says.
“And my absolute favorite beer is called ‘Daisy Cutter.’ from Chicago’s Half-Acre Beer Company,” Wilde says. “Really flavorful and aromatic.”
Small batch, limited appeal beers have a lot in common with indie films, the “Drinking Buddies” stars agree. Whatever mark Wilde makes in studio films (her next is Ron Howard’s big-budget Formula 1 racing picture “Rush”) and whatever Johnson gets out of his sitcom day job “New Girl”, indie films “don’t have to appeal to everyone,” Johnson says.
“The shoot is small and there’s nobody in some distant studio office making suggestions, changes, watering the movie down,” Wilde says, running with that beer analogy.
And, Johnson adds, like a good drinking buddy, “People making an indie film don’t have to get all sensitive and worry about scaring off some of the audience.”