“Digging for Fire” is the latest from the director of last year’s “Happy Christmas.” Built around the exploits of a married couple somewhere in their 30s, it’s an interesting piece on adulthood, fidelity and taking a hard look at the paths we’re on in life.
Lee and Tim have been together for several years. They have a 3-year-old son and are house sitting in the well-to-do home of one of Lee’s yoga clients, who is away on a film shoot. The place is a beautiful cabin-like structure in the Hollywood hills, and a far cry from the modest duplex that the yoga teacher and public schoolteacher usually call home. Lee and Tim get along fine, but the seams of their marriage are starting to fray.
“Digging for Fire,” which screened at the most recent Sundance Film Festival, is the story of how they respond to the frays.
Shortly after their arrival, Tim (Jake Johnson) makes an odd discovery in the hillside next to the home: a rusted old six-shooter and a bone. His curiosity is piqued, but Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) thinks digging up their host’s hillside is a bad idea. She thinks he should be working on their taxes instead.
Luckily, director/writer Joe Swanberg understands that 90 minutes of a man doing his taxes is not a recipe for a winning film. So Lee decides to spend a weekend with her mother (Judith Light) and stepfather (Sam Elliott), leaving Tim to his own devices.
At this point, “Digging for Fire” splits into two stories: Tim’s adventures on the hillside, and Lee’s adventures with an assortment of Uber drivers.
The first night, Tim calls a group of friends over to hang out. The partying gradually intensifies as more dubious characters show up and help dig up the hillside, and the plot intensifies as they find more dubious items.
In the meantime, Lee is visiting friends and family and finding the same copy of "Passionate Marriage" wherever she goes. Eventually, her passion is tested when a handsome stranger (Orlando Bloom) rescues her from a pushy patron at a bar.
“Digging for Fire” uses all of this to muse on the nature of adulthood. Namely, how to know that a person has entered it, or whether he or she wants to stay. It’s thoughtful, natural and often very funny and relatable.
But, like many Sundance submissions, it feels more comfortable in R-rated territory when it comes to language, its depiction of drug use and an unexpected shot of one of the male characters taking a quick skinny-dip.
“Digging for Fire” is built around Lee and Tim, but features supporting performances from a variety of familiar Hollywood faces. In addition to Bloom and Elliott, Tim’s party crew includes Sam Rockwell, Brie Larson and Anna Kendrick.Comment on this story
If there’s a scene-stealer in the bunch, though, it’s Swanberg’s son, who plays Lee and Tim’s 3-year-old boy. He makes the most of his limited screen time.
“Digging for Fire” was featured at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and is not rated, but it would no doubt receive an R rating for profanity, drug use and a brief shot of male nudity.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.