Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Digging for Fire [2015]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars)  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review  

Digging for Fire [2015] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Joe Swanberg along with Jake Johnson) is an initially rather slow-moving (but ultimately quite thought provoking) summer indie about a 30-something couple "in a rut" a few years after having their (first) child together.  He, Tim (played by Jake Johnson) is a Los Angeles area public school teacher.  She, Lee (played by Rosemary DeWitt) is a yoga instructor and together they have a three year old boy named Jude (played by the director's 3 y/o son Jude Swanberg) who's now old enough to go to preschool.

That preschool becomes actually an occasion to disagree, even fight, and exposes a few other dynamics going on:  Even if Tim and Lee probably had grown up in roughly the same economic class (lower middle to middle middle), Lee's mother (played by Judith Light) after apparently divorcing Lee's father, re-married significantly up (Lee's mother's second husband played by Sam Elliott).  So Lee's mother and second husband want to put their 3 y/o grandson Jude into a $10,000/yr preschool -- "some studies now say that choice of PRESCHOOL is more important than choice of COLLEGE in determining future 'success' ..." -- something that Tim and Lee self-evidently CAN'T AFFORD (and Tim, a _public school teacher_ after all considers something of a betrayal). BUT "no matter" Lee's mother / second husband "have offered to pay" ...

As a yoga instructor in L.A., Lee also has opportunity to enter socioeconomic circles that Tim (did I mention he's a public school teacher?) generally does not.  SOOO... the film plays out LARGELY at the lovely "Laural Canyon" home (complete with a lovely pool) of a couple of Lee's yoga clients, who apparently trust her enough to let her and her family (husband Tim and 3 y/o Jude) "house-sit" for them while _they_ go on vacation. 

So Tim, Lee and 3 y/o Jude go up there, putz around for a while, ARGUE a bit, and Lee decides that she'd just prefer to leave Tim up there (in the swanky house that she's taken him) and go down with her 3 y/o to see her parents / friends for the weekend.  Tim is nominally left "to do their (presumably back) taxes."  Perhaps the taxes of Lee, as a presumably small studio operating and certainly partly freelancing yoga instructor, would be somewhat complicated, but MOST OF US would probably suspect that Tim's taxes could be quite simply knocked-off using a 1040-EZ form ...

So what does 30 something Tim do?  He calls a bunch of friends -- Phil, Ray and Billy T (played by Mike Birbiglia, Sam Rockwell and Chris Messina respectively).  One or another calls up a couple of girls, Max and Alicia (played by Brie Larsen and Anna Kendrick), and soon they're having a party.

Lee in contrast spends her first night down with her mother, where she's reminded of all the things that she never had (but now is supposed to appreciate/strive for, since her mother remarried rich) and is lectured again on "how important" it is to put her kid "in the best PRESCHOOL (!) possible" (which mom and stepdad would "happily bankroll" "if only she would let them...").

After a night of mom, she goes to see her sister and her husband (sister played by Melanie Lynskey) who're happy to have her over (for a couple of hours), but they too seem to be living "better off" than Lee / Tim and are also about to go off on vacation somewhere, so ... "It's great seeing you sis, but we've got to keep this short ..." "But I was hoping we, two, could perhaps even go out tonight." "I'd love to but we're packing / going ... and besides ... you can actually go on your own." 

So Lee, 30 something, married, with a kid (left at grandma's), finds herself going to a bar, Saturday night, on her own ...

So, of course, both Tim and Lee find themselves "with opportunity" to ... cheat.  The rest of the movie follows.

Well, do they?  I'm not going to tell you.  But it's not necessarily a bad movie for couples BOTH BEFORE and AFTER GETTING MARRIED who may not be "the richest people they know."  It's a conversation worth having: "How are we going to approach things when we find that mom, dad, friends, may have significantly more money / stuff than we have?"

It's NOT, NOT, NOT (did I say, NOT?) the "end of the world," and there will ALWAYS be SOMEONE with more fun, stuff, experiences than we have.  But in a competitive / consumerist world, it makes for a thought provoking film nonetheless.

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