Review: Digging for Fire
PLOT: The discovery of a human bone and an old gun sends a husband (Jake Johnson) and wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) on separate adventures over a few days in L.A that will test the strength of each partner's marital devotion.
REVIEW: It's not Sundance without Joe Swanberg, right? An insanely prolific director, the former mumblecore director continues his transition into the mainstream (his way) with DIGGING FOR FIRE. Like his last few movies DRINKING BUDDIES and HAPPY CHRISTMAS DIGGING FOR FIRE throws together a superb ensemble cast and just lets them riff on each other, with a simple, relatable premise at the movie's heart.
It helps that actors clearly like working with the improvisational Swanberg, and DIGGING FOR FIRE has a kind of party atmosphere his other films haven't really had. Jake Johnson who stars co-wrote with Swanberg and the film suits him perfectly with him playing a kind of relatable everyman. He loves his wife (DeWitt) and kid (Swanberg's adorable three-year-old Jude who also had a starring role in HAPPY CHRISTMAS) but yearns for a little excitement. His wife, who's a yoga instructor, snags the two a nice job house-sitting for a movie star client, and when Johnson finds the bone and gun, which suggests a hidden mystery in their backyard, he sees an opportunity for excitement even though his wife would prefer he just leave well enough alone and do the taxes.
While the bone and gun might suggest the film is some kind of mystery, but it's really not. Most of the movie is divided up into Johnson and Swanberg's adventures once the two split up for a weekend apart. Johnson hooks up with two sets of bros, with the quiet, responsible bunch (including Mike Birbiglia) giving way to the coked-up reprobates played by Chris Messina and Sam Rockwell, who bring along some girls (Anna Kendrick and Brie Larson), with things getting really interesting once Larson comes back the morning after to help Johnson dig up his back yard for more bones. For her part, DeWitt hangs with her parents (the eternally youthful Judith Light and Sam Elliot) before having her own flirtation with a romantic, chivalrous stranger (Orlando Bloom).
Anyone expecting much in the way of conflict or drama probably doesn't really know Swanberg. That's not his thing. Rather, like his other movies this is just a slice-of-life being one weekend that just happens to be a little different from the others, but not strikingly. The important thing is that everyone is likable, with even Rockwell's constantly coked-up party guy having a few moments that suggests a longing beneath his brash surface.
In the end, DIGGING FOR FIRE isn't entirely different from other Swanberg flicks but if you enjoy his stuff and like the easygoing vibe his movies project than this is for you. You just feel like a fly-on-the-wall as the cast hangs out which is totally pleasant, making this a fun watch.