Dig­ging for Fire

DIG­GING FOR FIRE, com­edy-drama, rated R, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

Hey, kids! Dig­ging for Fire is the home movie you might have made if you had a lot of A (or B+) list friends, in­clud­ing a ter­rific cin­e­matog­ra­pher like Ben Richard­son (shoot­ing on 35mm to im­pres­sive ef­fect) and ac­tors like Sam Rock­well, Anna Ken­drick, Rose­marie DeWitt, Or­lando Bloom, Ju­dith Light, and Sam El­liott. And a cute, pre­co­cious in-house three-yearold like Jude Swan­berg. Oh, and tal­ent. Pro­lific in­die di­rec­tor Joe Swan­berg (Drink­ing Bud­dies,

Happy Christ­mas) has that. He uses it in a low-key way, on movies that seem to drift, ab­sorbed in the mo­ment, through a struc­ture that has a vague idea of where it’s go­ing but no spe­cial plan of how to get there.

Here we start with a young cou­ple. Tim (Swan­berg’s co-writer Jake John­son) is a high school teacher, and Lee (DeWitt) is a yoga in­struc­tor, and they’ve got a gig house-sit­ting in the Mal­ibu hills for a few weeks for a wealthy client of hers. While pok­ing around in the back yard, Tim stum­bles on an in­trigu­ing find: a rusted old hand­gun and a long bone that might have hu­man prove­nance. He calls the po­lice, who tell him to get back to them if he finds a body. He’s all for ex­ca­vat­ing the prop­erty, but Lee, who is of a more prac­ti­cal bent, tells him to for­get it. She’s tak­ing their lit­tle boy for a week­end with her par­ents (Light and El­liott), and she leaves him with a kitchen ta­ble strewn with tax ma­te­ri­als and march­ing or­ders to get them done.

Scarcely is the drive­way empty when his bud­dies (Rock­well, Mike Bir­biglia, Chris Messina) start show­ing up, bring­ing along some dope and some good-time gals (Ken­drick, Brie Lar­son), and the party is on. And af­ter an un­com­fort­able drink with a creepy, in­sin­u­at­ing neigh­bor (Tom Bower), and with the en­thu­si­as­tic en­cour­age­ment of some of the pals, Tim starts to dig. Lee, mean­while, is get­ting ad­vice from her par­ents, temp­ta­tion in the com­pany of a hand­some stranger (Bloom), and per­spec­tive through the lens of the te­le­scope be­long­ing to a woman on the beach (Jane Adams).

The game is on, and it’s kept afloat by the screen pres­ence of its cast. A lot of the scenes feel, and surely are, im­pro­vised from an out­line, and they’re fun to watch. There are sev­eral over­rid­ing lines of ten­sion: Will the partiers and dig­gers de­stroy the fancy house? Will Tim or Lee fall off the fi­delity wagon? Will their friends and fam­ily con­vince them that di­vorce is a mar­riage’s best friend? And, first among this weave of threads, will Tim find a dead body buried in the Mal­ibu hill­side? The over­all arc is one of self-dis­cov­ery, and at a mod­est 85 min­utes, it’s worth the time. — Jonathan Richards

Stranger in the night: Or­lando Bloom and Rose­marie DeWitt

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