Long before the invasion of celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Christie Brinkley and Puffy (or whatever Sean Combs was calling himself back then), the Hamptons were, apparently, pretty sedate and unpretentious.
We’re talking decades ago — like, the 1970s — a place and time the small charmer “Diggers” takes us to with rich storytelling and vivid performances.
Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Ron Eldard and Josh Hamilton co-star as longtime friends and clam diggers clinging to their livelihood as corporate forces move into their sliver of Long Island; Marino, formerly of the MTV sketch comedy show “The State” and, for those of you who know your “Dawson's Creek,” Katie Holmes’ flirty college professor, also wrote the script.
He intended it as an homage to his father, and has created characters who feel incredibly real in the way they support and affectionately needle each other, as well as in their struggles and failures. In the vein of “The Big Chill” or “Breaking Away” (or “Diner,” the film that draws the most frequent comparisons), “Diggers” is sensitive and insightful without ever being maudlin.
Think of it as a chick flick for men, though Maura Tierney, Lauren Ambrose and Sarah Paulson fit in beautifully as the strong women in their lives.
If there’s anything wrong with the film from director Katherine Dieckmann, it’s that it’s a bit rushed. These are interesting people you’d like to get to know better, and our time with them feels too brief. In a world where movies tend to run too long, this is a rare one isn’t long enough.
Rudd remains likable and versatile as ever as Hunt, who followed in his dad’s footsteps as a clam digger, though the two aren’t exactly pals. One morning Hunt shows up late, as usual, and finds his father slumped over the side of his boat, dead.
Eventually he runs through the remorse of not having been there (which is handled with remarkable subtlety) but first he must ponder how this monumental change might serve as a catalyst in his own life.
He could stay in town, like his friends did, like their fathers did, drinking beer and playing pool at their favored working-class dive bar to blow off steam at the end of each long day. It would be easy; it would be safe.
There’s Frankie Lozo (Marino), a volatile, foul-mouthed father of five with his quick-witted wife, Julie (Paulson); Jack (Eldard, resembling a young Robert Redford with his blond hair and sideburns), the notorious womanizer who’s secretly begun an affair with Hunt’s divorced sister Gina (Tierney); and Cons (Hamilton), the group’s scrawny philosopher and town pot dealer, who gets some of the biggest laughs with his physical comedy.
Or Hunt could — gasp — actually leave and go somewhere else, be someone else, pursue his own interests for once, something he feels inspired to do after spending time with stylish Manhattanite Zoe (Ambrose), who’s in town for the summer and shows an interest in his stark, black-and-white photography.
Is his eventual choice pretty obvious? Maybe. But getting there takes humor and heart, both of which “Diggers” has plenty.