After a decade of shoestring productions, writer-director Joe Swanberg moved up to the mid-budget leagues with 2013’s Drinking Buddies with Olivia Wilde and New Girl’s Jake Johnson. Digging for Fire, which bears a dedication to the late Paul Mazursky (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), marks his most star-studded affair to date (many of the actors have worked with Lynn Shelton). Cowriter Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt play Tim and Lee, a couple house-sitting in the Hollywood Hills with their 3-year-old, Jude (Jude Swanberg, the director’s son).
On the first day, Tim finds a rusty gun and a bone. While Lee and Jude take a trip to visit her parents, Tim invites over some friends (including an obnoxious Sam Rockwell and a briefly nude Chris Messina), who dig into the hillside to see what else they can find. Brie Larson’s Max joins the party, and she and Tim hit it off. Left to her own devices, Lee finds her own pretty pal in Orlando Bloom’s Ben. It takes a while to figure out Swanberg’s endgame, since he doesn’t seem as invested in the mystery as Tim, but his true subject is the challenge of marriage for a couple surrounded by people with more money or fewer obligations. The actors are fine, but the end result feels undercooked, largely because of all the detours and subplots. It’s like a miniseries writ small.