Digging for Fire

by Alan Rapp on August 28, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Digging for Fire
  • IMDb: link

Digging for FireMiddle-age apathy is the major theme of Digging for Fire as a husband (Jake Johnson, who co-wrote the screenplay along with director Joe Swanberg) and wife’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) separate weekend plans while on vacation let each work through the listlessness of their shared existence and eventually find their way back to each other. It’s a story that’s been done several times, sometime much better (like Massy Tadjedin‘s 2010 film Last Night) and more often far worse (any number of middle age brain-dead romcoms).

More archetypes than fully fleshed-out characters, neither Tim nor Lee are all that interesting. Tim is your typical mid-life crisis male wanting to spend time with old friends and recapture lost youth. Lee is worried about the future, her marriage, and loosing her sense of self under the weight of marriage and parenthood. Johnson and DeWitt give the characters a bit of a spark but it’s Tim’s unusual obsession with finding a bone and old revolver buried in the back yard of the home where the family is staying that proves to give the movie something unique to explore, if not something terribly original to say.

For the project Swanberg calls on a host of familiar faces to fill out the cast including Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Mike Birbiglia as friends Tim parties with one night and Sam Elliot, Judith Light, Ron Livingston, Melanie Lynskey, Jenny Slate, and Orlando Bloom as folks Lee spends time with during the same period. Of the group Larson is the real standout as a younger woman infatuated with Tim and his obsession with digging up a stranger’s back yard. Tim is nearly oblivious to any sexual interest of the woman while completely invested in digging his way to China while Lee far more actively pursues something purely adventurous as her weekend plans with old friends and family continue to disappoint allowing the film to swap the more traditional gender roles.

Both Tim and Lee learn the same lesson the characters in these movies always learn (albeit sometimes too late). For movies like this to succeed the journey has to be more than the destination. Digging for Fire half succeeds given Tim’s quest which is equal parts about his obsession about discovering some hidden truth and ignoring his present-day responsibilities. I’ll also give the script credit for not stomping over the characters’ individual revelations and allowing them to come naturally. Digging for Fire is a mixed success and likely an acquired taste for someone predisposed to seek out independent cinema. It’s never as fully engaging as I’d like, but, even if the ideas it explores are rather simplistic, the emotions and reactions of its characters feel honest and real.

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