Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two from the indie side of things

Digging for Fire shouldn't work, but it does
An unusual mixture of obsession and informality give Digging for Fire, a new movie from director Joe Swanberg, its feeling of freshness. Tim and Lee (Jake Johnson and Rosemarie DeWitt) are house sitting for one of Lee's wealthy clients. She teaches yoga; he's a public school teacher. Along with their young son, Tim and Lee are set to enjoy a week of unaccustomed luxury. Signs of possible tension emerge. Lee wants to accept money from her parents (Sam Elliott and Judith Light) to send their son to an expensive pre-school. A mixture of pride and a commitment to public education keep Tim from agreeing. When Lee leaves to spend a weekend with her parents, Tim is joined by friends (Mike Birbiglia, Sam Rockwell and Chris Messina), as well as by a couple of women who tag along. Tim already has been consumed by a strange task: Having found a revolver and a human bone in the backyard of this expensive home, he decides to dig for more. Eventually, he's joined in this effort by Max (Brie Larson), one of the women who attended the impromptu party and returned the next day to find her purse. Swanberg quietly introduces the real issue: the state of Tim and Lee's marriage. While Tim's flirting with Max, Lee has her own tempting encounter with a ruggedly handsome man (Orlando Bloom) she meets in a bar. I won't say more, but I will advise you to view Tim's digging more as a metaphor than plot point. By the end you'll realize that Swanberg has taken an unusual and sometimes comic look at the fragility of marriage -- and also the feeling of safety it can provide.

Z for Zachariah: quiet tension in a post-apocalyptic world

The actors in Z for Zachariah (Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Margot Robbie) are all capable of keeping the movie's sexual tension close to the surface. Good thing, too, because Z for Zachariah throws them into a post-apocalyptic world in which they play the only survivors. Robbie's Ann Burden lives in an idyllic valley that has survived the nuclear holocaust that ravaged the rest of the world. Once Ejiofor's character, an engineer by trade, finds his way into the valley, director Craig Zoebel sets up a dynamic in which two characters who probably never would have met under any other circumstance are forced to work out the dynamics of their relationship. This process is disrupted when another man, Pine's Caleb turns up. Like Ann, Caleb professes to be a man of faith. Ejiofor's John focuses on practical matters with an eye on the possibly of re-starting the human race with Ann. The symbolism gets heavy when John proposes tearing down a chapel that Tracy's father built so that he can use the wood to build a waterwheel for harnessing electricity. Zoebel's naturalism keeps the proceedings from feeling overly allegorical, but the deliberately paced Z For Zachariah never quite attains the primal force the material demands.

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