This review was written for the theatrical release of "Diggers."
You can smell the brine in "Diggers," a thoughtful, detailed, Polaroid snapshot circa 1976 of a tightly knit village of clam-diggers on Long Island's South Shore that's rich in evocative period touches.
Directed by Katherine Dieckmann from a script by actor Ken Marino, the bittersweet film does a good job in capturing a society on the cusp of change, though you wish they might have dug a little deeper in the storytelling department.
At the end of the day, this Magnolia Pictures release, which premieres on HDNet this Saturday ahead of its April 27 theatrical bow, feels more like an expertly drawn character sketch than a true moviegoing proposition.
Effectively anchoring the enterprise is Paul Rudd's performance as Hunt, a digger like his just-deceased father and grandfather before him, though one who has been noticing the telltale signs of a community beginning to crumble under the weight of corporate America.
A restless spirit to begin with, Hunt has been considering his options after laying his dad to rest, but it's going to be difficult leaving such a colorful group of family and friends behind, especially his divorced, plain-speaking (and "Hite Report"-reading) big sister, Gina (Maura Tierney).
Then there's his buddy Frankie Lozo (Marino), a bit of a Neanderthal father of five kids, and Frankie's long-suffering wife, Julie (Sarah Paulson); womanizing Jack (Ron Eldard); and Zen-embracing pot dealer Cons (Josh Hamilton).
But Hunt's eyes are also open to outside possibilities by the arrival of Zoe (Lauren Ambrose), a Manhattanite who thinks Hunt has real potential as a photographer.
There's nice work by all concerned, but after laying down the dramatic turf, Dieckmann and Marino seem to be affected by the same malaise that surrounds the entire town. There's a repetitiveness that ultimately strands the picture in that sea of good intentions.
Certainly much consideration has gone into nailing a very specific place and bicentennial time with smartly chosen TV clips, including Ford-Carter debate footage and memorable commercials of the day, while cinematographer Michael McDonough successfully evokes that unmistakable, somewhat brown around the edges, trademark '70s patina.
An HDNet Films presentation in association with Dirty Rice Pictures
Director: Katherine Dieckmann
Screenwriter: Ken Marino
Producers: Anne Chaisson, Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Ken Marino
Executive producers: Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner, David Wain
Director of photography: Michael McDonough
Production designer: Roshelle Berliner
Editors: Malcolm Jamieson, Sabine Hoffman
Costume designer: Catherine George
Music: David Mansfield
Hunt: Paul Rudd
Zoey: Lauren Ambrose
Jack: Ron Eldard
Cons: Josh Hamilton
Julie: Sarah Paulson
Frankie Lozo: Ken Marino
Gina: Maura Tierney
Running time -- 89 minutes
MPAA rating: R