Review: ‘Diggers’ has pleasant, period-indie spirit 

There’s both breeze and malaise in the Hamptons air in the period indie "Diggers," and director Katherine Dieckmann and writer Ken Marino bring these elements into seriocomic sync. The movie’s too slight and familiar, as its protagonists banter and stagnate, to impress you deeply. But as a dollop of local color of the Long Island fisher-folk kind, it’s mighty agreeable.

Set in 1976, days of big sideburns and the Carter-Ford debates, the story centers on four third-generation clam-digging buddies weathering hard times in their Hamptons, New York, fishing town. A predatory corporation called South Shell has reduced water access for independent diggers. The dramedy focuses on how these guys deal, often unconstructively, with the changes they must make in their lives.

Hunt (Paul Rudd), shaken by the death of his digger dad, knows he’s dead-ending but hesitates to leave the safety of his rut to pursue a photography career. Frankie (played by Marino) unloads his frustrations on his wife, Julie (Sarah Paulson), and their large brood. Cons (Josh Hamilton) gets stoned and philosophizes. Jack (Ron Eldard) womanizes.

There isn’t enough depth or originality here to enable the movie to etch itself deep into the memory lobes. The ingredients overly recall "Diner," "Breaking Away," "Garden State" and the like.

But as these people experience the bumps and occasional jolts that make up a summer, the movie radiates a likability you can’t discount.

The realist mode of Dieckmann ("A Good Baby"), a former journalist, and the comic touch of Marino, whose credits include MTV’s "The State," make for an effective tonal mix, and Marino, whose father was a clam digger, has written credible and engaging dialogue that supplies bounce that is generally lacking in the plot arena.

The film additionally scores points as a depiction of the immense role that livelihood plays in personal and community identity. As an atmospheric portrait of a tiny chip in the nation’s working-class mosaic, it’s vibrant.

The performances, which also include nice turns by Lauren Ambrose as Hunt’s Manhattanite girlfriend and Maura Tierney as Hunt’s divorced sister, exemplify the joys of indie casting, in which lesser-knowns shine in roles that box-office draws would likely be wrong for. Best is Marino; his volatile Frankie is both funny and galling.

Diggers **½

Starring Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Josh Hamilton, Ron Eldard

Written by Ken Marino

Directed by Katherine Dieckmann

Rated R

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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