Movie review of “Digging for Fire”: After finding a human bone, a housesitter (Jake Johnson) turns detective and his marital status is threatened. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
While you’re watching it, “Digging for Fire” may feel slight or tentative, but its cumulative impact is entrancing. Few films about a marital rift make so much of what seems so little.
It begins when a public-school teacher (Jake Johnson) becomes fixated on the discovery of a human bone on the land where he and his yoga-teaching wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) are taking a break, courtesy of a client who asks them to housesit for her.
The wife doesn’t share his enthusiasm for detective work, and she takes their 3-year-old son (Jude Swanberg, the director’s son) out of the situation. The husband invites his friends for a macho swimming-pool party, while the wife winds up with a romantic flirtation that threatens to turn into revenge sex.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Digging for Fire,’ with Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell, Jude Swanberg, Chris Messina, Anna Kendrick, Sam Elliott. Directed by Joe Swanberg, from a screenplay by Swanberg and Johnson. 83 minutes. Rated R for some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
So far, so not-so-surprising. But the writing-directing team behind the film consistently avoids clichés, using revealing, extra-long takes to sustain the feeling that the confrontations are really happening, right now. Johnson and DeWitt are especially strong in their scenes together, underlining the compromises that have kept their characters’ marriage from disintegrating.
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The supporting players could have used more screen time, especially Sam Rockwell, Chris Messina, Anna Kendrick and Sam Elliott, who effortlessly demonstrates why he’s enjoying a comeback this year. Running just 83 minutes, this is one of the few contemporary movies that deserves to be half an hour longer.