Like an R-rated episode of a "Northern Exposure"-type quirky-character show, "Diggers" serves up slices of life sprinkled with a little too much cute, funny stuff.
The setting is the Hamptons vicinity of Long Island in the mid-1970s, before it became an exclusive precinct for the rich.
Things were changing for the local community of clam diggers, though.
A big corporation was buying up exclusive rights to the clam beds their families had worked for generations, and financial pressures were forcing the diggers to either give up their independence and go work for the capitalist pigs or consider pursuing different livelihoods.
The movie focuses on four youngish pals.
The main one, Hunt (Paul Rudd), is a noncommittal sort whose father dies alone at the wheel of his little boat when his son should have been out there with him (he's buried with his fishing waders on).
Hunt's sister Gina (Maura Tierney) runs a diner and had been living with the dad since her divorce. Both siblings have a summer fling, he with a girl from the city ("Six Feet Under's" Lauren Ambrose) who encourages his photography hobby and discourages him from visiting her in Manhattan. Hunt does not take this well, but Rudd establishes his low-key charm so effectively that we really can't worry about him too much.
The other three buddies aren't defined as much. Frankie, always complaining and played by Ken Marino (who also wrote the script and was one of the film's producers), has a passel of kids and a loving, if worn-out, wife (Sarah Paulson). Jack (Ron Eldard) is an inarticulate ladies' man. Cons (Josh Hamilton) is a sweet, philosophical pothead. They all speak with pronounced Down East accents.
Director Katherine Diekmann persuasively captures the era's culture and mores: pop songs are perfectly apt, men wear bad sideburns, women read "The Hite Report" - sound details like that. She also likes to stage conversations on toilets, for some reason. Michael McDonough's shoreline cinematography is gorgeous while avoiding any hint of kitschy tourist art.
If only the script for "Diggers " were as disciplined. Even at their most troubled, these native Hamptonians are impossibly good, amusing folks. Too likable, in fact, to convince us that their whole, hard way of life is collapsing on them. And too nice, ultimately, to be deep or poignant enough to make us care very much about their fates. *
Produced by Anne Chaisson, Ken Marino and Joana Vicente, directed by Kaherine Dieckmann, written by Ken Marino, music by David Mansfield, distributed by Magnolia Pictures.