Friday, August 28, 2015

Digging for Fire: Movie Review


Lack of murder mystery still reveals a funny and insightful film.
Digging for Fire is both Joe Swanberg's funniest film and most mature film to date. It's another one of his indie films with mainstream accessibility, but it should be noted that it's not a murder mystery, or murder mystery comedy, as it easily could be with the excellent premise with such great potential. 2015

Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Screenplay by: Joe Swanberg, Jake Johnson

Starring: Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie Dewitt) are married with a three-year-old son. They're house-sitting for a rich client in the Hollywood Hills when Tim uncovers a bone and a gun while digging a garden. Lee doesn't see or care about the significance of such a find and encourages Tim to just leave it alone and spend the weekend working on their taxes. Lee drops Jude off with her parents and plans to hit the town with friends. Tim also calls friends over and is going to put the gorgeous house with a murder mystery in its backyard to good use.

Tim's first friends to arrive are mature and stable and fit in better with the married and father side of Tim. But then old friend Ray (Sam Rockwell) arrives armed with a fury of one-liners and good ol' male debauchery determined to turn Tim back into the guy he was when he was single. He loves the idea of digging in the backyard, and Tim is torn between his new friends who don't think they should dig up somebody's else yard and his old friend who brought girls with him and the potential of uncovering a murder mystery.
Courtesy of The Orchard.
This is where the movie isn't exactly what most people were probably expecting. Tim does dig for more bones in the backyard, but it's not about what he uncovers, it's about the conversations that occur during the digging and the realizations that he makes about himself. It's actually a very understated movie about the struggles of being married when single friends show up, and when his ideas of time well spent are not the same as his wife's.

Digging for Fire is also Joe Swanberg's first film shot on 35mm film, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I don't always notice the difference between digital and film, but the beauty of digging at night (something you don't necessarily think of as being beautiful) makes that difference readily apparent.

The movie can seem very slow especially compared to the comedy of Tim and Ray and their adventure-seeking digging. But it always remains funny. Jake Johnson really excels at the more subtle humour when the joke is in what's being said underneath the surface. Tim and Ray have an excellent conversation about how hard it is being a father, but all Ray understands is that you don't get much sleep, he missed the part about actually being a father. It's arguably Johnson's best performance since his extremely funny and equally damaging turn in the underrated Ceremony.

The very long list of stars should probably not be used as a selling point since the majority of them have a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance. Brie Larson has a notable role as a woman interested in Tim, and Orlando Bloom is also good in a smaller role as a man interested in Lee. Lee's side of their marriage wasn't as fully examined as Tim's, so her role mostly seems like a boring diversion from the potential of a murder mystery. But then again Digging for Fire is more about the sparks needed in a relationship and less about the bone and gun found when digging.

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