American independent cinema’s dearth of novel ideas is demonstrated once again by Diggers, a dramedy from former The State member Ken Marino about small-town friends poised on the precipice of momentous life decisions. It’s a formula that extends all the way back to Diner—and most recently employed by Ed Burns’s The Groomsmen—and one that Marino and director Katherine Dieckmann use for a hackneyed, if not-altogether uninteresting, exploration of the romantic and professional dilemmas of boyish adults trying to figure out their next steps. In 1976 Long Island, four third-generation clam diggers find their livelihoods threatened by a conglomerate, a dilemma that exists side-by-side with their more personal dramas, which include Hunt’s (Paul Rudd) mixed-up emotions over his father’s death and his sister Gina’s (Maura Tierney) relationship with lothario Jack (Ron Eldard), and Lozo’s (Marino) frustrations over both his occupational marginalization and his strained home life with wife Julie (Sarah Paulson) and their gaggle of kids. Toss in a wise stoner buddy (Josh Hamilton’s Cons) and a city-girl love interest for Hunt (Lauren Ambrose’s Zoey), and you’ve got a character-driven piece with commonplace things to say (live in the present, follow your heart, embrace happiness in whatever form it comes) and a fond wistfulness for its sleepy, isolated milieu and old-school protagonists. Marino’s writing thankfully downplays signpost speeches, favoring instead lots of believably intimate, profane banter and somber reflective moments that are given warmth by Dieckmann’s unfussy direction. Rudd’s distant stares convey Hunt’s turmoil far more effectively than does his summer fling with Zoey and her eventual suggestion that he try taking his black-and-white photography hobby seriously. But in a film defined by its safe familiarity, the most intriguing aspect of Diggers proves to be the borderline-abusive relationship between Lozo and Julie, which Marino depicts with not simply critical disgust (for Lozo’s domineering, misogynistic cruelty) and sympathy (for his degraded spouse), but also a spark of frank affection that captures the way in which love and feelings about the past can sometimes be conflicted, if not downright irrational.
- Magnolia Pictures
- 90 min
- Katherine Dieckmann
- Ken Marino
- Paul Rudd, Lauren Ambrose, Ron Eldard, Josh Hamilton, Sarah Paulson, Ken Marino, Maura Tierney
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