Katherine Dieckmann's Diggers (2006) is a lovely minor-key portrait of a way of life in flux. Set in 1976 Long Island, the film written by Ken Marino follows a group of independent clam diggers coping with personal crises and the arrival of a corporate fishing interest called South Shell that threatens their livelihood.
We know that Hunt (Paul Rudd) has ambitions outside fishing because he's constantly taking artsy pictures. Hunt and his sister Gina (Maura Tierney, who makes working-class characters sexy like no one else) have just buried their father, an event that gathers all the principal characters early in the film. There's ladies' man Jack (Ron Eldard), drug dealer Cons (Josh Hamilton), and Lozo and Julie (Ken Marino and Sarah Paulson) with their noisy family.
The ensemble cast is strong, but my opinion of Paul Rudd continues to grow based on his work here. As the summer wears on Hunt enjoys a fling with New Yorker Zoey (Lauren Ambrose), who views the relationship only as a distraction. Hunt's disappointment, which Rudd underplays superbly, proves a catalyst for his decision about where to take his life. As a writer Ken Marino displays great affection for the bustle of a household where feeding every mouth is part of the daily grind. Marino gets great mileage out the emotional plate tectonics of family life, where the kids are always veering between annoying him and winning his heart. It's good to see Sarah Paulson away from her tiresome born-again Christian/late night comedy star role on Studio 60.
Not too much really happens in Diggers 87 minutes, and much of that won't surprise you. But the movie feels lived-in and heartfelt, capturing a way of life and an attitude to the world that no corporate fishery can displace. The most significant moments in Diggers may be the scenes of the clam diggers greeting each other with middle finger salutes. Diggers is a winner.