I hadn't seen any other Joe Swanberg as pre-requisites but if I knew the delights Digging For Fire had in store for me I would have certainly done my research. However, that would have been some undertaking. He's one of the decade's most productive filmmakers, directing (as well as pulling his weight in all the other roles) a dozen films this decade, half of which in 2011 alone. While he barely gets towards the 80 minute mark and so does Digging For Fire, his mumblecore roots are growing in ambition into something else, a more cinematic mumblecore perhaps. With an all-star cast, wonderful score and attractive widescreen photography, it reflects that Los Angeles glisten that allures so many. But even with this shine, it relishes in an uncontrolled improvisational style which is its blessing and its curse. On one hand it feels more natural, slice-of-life and the chemistry between the actors glows, but then there's a real lack of structure within each scene and the themes aren't fully fleshed out, instead letting the film be deliberately limited.
However, that's part of its charm for me. In a way, it feels like a mini-Short Cuts, but rather than Altman's high drama and ambiguity, it keeps it low-key and on-the-nose at points. Same vibrancy and endearing everyday sense of humour though. I was more pleased that a film about long-term monogamy and maturing didn't go the distance and I preferred it as a mere tease. Despite that scale on a short runtime, the editing keeps it very brisk, so brisk that even 20 minutes from the end it doesn't feel like its momentum is going anywhere. I can see that complaint from many but it's at least a good time with good people, especially when we have Jake Johnson, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt riffing in front of us. I also found it weirdly specifically relatable, as I was also housesitting in L.A. and its themes articulated some of my deeper anxieties. It doesn't investigate them, but it pried them up in a way I could see them bare. Digging For Fire never soars but it's consistently absorbing and amusing. Here's hoping Joe Swanberg does have a film in his future where he runs at it with a Paul Thomas Anderson-esque tenacity. Bring this cast for the ride too.
Digging for Fire
Digging for Fire
Married couple Lee and Tim, a part-time yoga instructor and a public school physical education teacher respectively, jump at the opportunity to sit at the secluded Los Angeles Hills house of an actress acquaintance for two weeks as a mini-vacation for them and their three-year-old son, Jude. The house sit starts with an unusual event: Tim finds on the property in the wooded hills just beyond the swimming pool a gun and a bone. He believes the bone could be a human one, and that there could be a murdered dead body buried in the hills in the vicinity of where he found these items. Tim telephones the police, who tell him they can do nothing unless an actual body is found. As such, Lee convinces Tim to drop the subject. On their first weekend at the house, Lee decides to leave Tim on his own for the weekend to complete their income tax return, which he has long put off, while she and Jude go to visit among others her mother and stepfather, and her sister Squiggy and her family, neither ...
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March 11, 2019 at 05:28 AM