If I described Diggers as being about "four old friends who struggle to (finally) mature in the face of grown-up stresses, miseries and generally unpleasant turns of event," you'd probably respond with something like "Oh yeah, just like 45% of all indie/comedy/dramas I've seen this decade." And you'd be right -- it's not a stunning sense of originality that makes Diggers worth watching; it's the actors, combined with the asset of a surprisingly insightful screenplay that does the job. It's amusing to note that while screenwriter Ken Marino's old State-mates are out banking huge coin writing chaff like Let's Go to Prison and Herbie: Fully Loaded, his first screenplay is a much more personal and low-key affair.
While Diggers would most likely be labeled a "drama," the truth is that there's a lot of solid wit to be found here. It's just couched in between a lot of (surprisingly compelling) melodrama, which helps the 'funny bits' to succeed more often. Plus, Diggers is packed with really strong performances, particularly from likable folks like Paul Rudd, Lauren Ambrose, Sarah Paulson, Josh Hamilton, Maura Tierney and Ron Eldard. Marino gives himself a very juicy central role, but the guy manages to steal every scene he's in, so it's not like it's a bad thing. (His scenes with Ms. Paulson are really quite excellent.) Rudd, Eldard, Hamilton and Marino make for a quietly compelling quartet of old pals; the guys exhibit a clear and casual chemistry that helps the semi-familiar material go down a lot more smoothly.
As the long-suffering ladies in their lives, Paulson exhibits a fragile strength, Ambrose makes for a serviceable flirt and Ms. Tierney provides some of her best work in years. Even if you're not entirely captivated by Diggers' numerous plot threads, the actors are quite simply fun to watch for 90 minutes ... and sometimes that's good enough. The story, basically, is Mystic Pizza for boys: four old friends, all of whom are third-generation Long Island clam-diggers, struggle through a variety of hardships: one loses his dad, another is losing his house, a third one is looking for love in all the wrong places, etc. Like I said, there's nothing astoundingly "new" on display here.
But just like a new rock band (if they try real hard and actually care about their work) can produce an excellent rendition of some well-traveled material, Marino, his cast, and first-time director Katherine Dieckmann jump feet-first into their story and succeed through sheer force of sincerity. A movie doesn't have to be unique in order for it to work, and Diggers provides just enough wit, warmth and insight to warrant a visit. And if you're a member of anyone in the cast, please do consider Diggers a must-(eventually)-see, because this charming little indie gives 'em all an equal chance to shine.