Digging for Fire Screen 10 articles

Digging for Fire


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  • It’s disappointing to realize that director Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies), who co-wrote the screenplay with Johnson, intends the objects found in the hillside to function as a big, clunky metaphor. This is a movie about marriage, and its lesson is decidedly cautionary: Some things are better left buried.

  • Swanberg's latest, Digging for Fire, isn't devoid of observations; it's just that those observations are banal... Little actually happens in Fire, because Swanberg frequently punctuates the action with meandering conversations that stop the film dead.

  • For all its occasional pleasures—including a climactic cross-cutting montage that shows Swanberg at his most impressively kinetic—Digging for Fire never quite generates the kind of revelatory insights into human relationships that might justify the amount of time Swanberg hangs out with these characters.

  • This is the most concentrated and conventional thing [Swanberg has] done, and it’s difficult to tell whether he’s losing or finding himself. The movie has been dedicated to Paul Mazursky, the great radiologist of American social interplay who died last year. But Swanberg is still murmuring where Mazursky could speechify, gesticulate, and shout, sometimes in the same sequence. Hopefully, Mazursky’s name is more than a dedication for Swanberg. It’s a standard to meet, a beacon to follow.

  • There are feints toward a bona fide mystery plot, but that genre element is just a pretext for a stealth marital drama, held together through strong improv, tight editing (by Swanberg himself), moody cinematography and a synth score (from Dan Romer) that parties like it’s 1991.

  • Digging for Fire is Swanberg's L.A. hang-out comedy, a film about people on the margins of a burned-out dream factory that captures how the energies of a small crowd shift and expand or compress with the arrival and departure of each participant. Entrances and exits serve as dramatic, tone-altering choruses and through lines.

  • Digging for Fire affably drifts by, bolstered by some strong set pieces. The long early scene of Tim and his friends at the house is a tableau of masculine performance. A late scene of Lee encountering a woman with a telescope at the beach is lovely, the simultaneous calm and mystery of the sky a nice summary of the film's general mood. Getting out of the house, it turns out, is far more interesting than doing taxes, and Swanberg illustrates this truth in bright, picturesque tones.

  • Swanberg's films sometimes have a tendency to just sit there, the frame static, the action stalled. 2013's "All the Light in the Sky" had beautiful performances and an interesting set-up, but the execution felt muted and fuzzy. "Digging for Fire" sparks with life in comparison, moving from humor to loneliness to screwball to those piercing moments when human beings, against the odds, are able to connect, to those seemingly tiny moments of revelation when a truth is revealed.

  • [It] may be one of his best works... As in a vintage Rohmer, Swanberg retrieves the aching that comes, in both spouses, with the temptation of infidelity.

  • Tensions below the surface of a happy couple’s life come to the fore in Joe Swanberg’s tender, wildly imaginative comic drama... Refreshing life by considering death, renewing romance in the face of violence, Swanberg offers symbolic nods to the land of film noir.

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