Long Island clammers, 1976, feeling the tides change

Posted: May 04, 2007

An unpretentiously involving movie about unpretentious people, Diggers is set in 1976 on the South Shore of Long Island before the invasion of folks from fancy Manhattan zip codes and its rebranding as the Hamptons.

This seriously funny group portrait of third-generation clam diggers (and their wives and sisters) is fresh as today's catch and about as tasty. Its '70s soundtrack positively swaggers.

The clammers are feeling the squeeze from a conglomerate that has rights to the prime fishing spots and also from the summer people who dismiss them as townies. As these guys too old to be boys and too immature to be men drift into troubled waters, their default is booze and brawls. Circumstances force them to grow up.

They have a sympathetic portraitist in director Katherine Dieckmann, who regards them with affection and understanding. She shows them as products of their environment only beginning to understand the changing culture around them.

Dieckmann assembles a fine ensemble of comic actors for her comedy/drama. Best are Paul Rudd and Maura Tierney as a supportive-if-prickly brother and sister. Also quite fine are Sarah Paulson and (screenwriter) Ken Marino as a prickly-if-supportive husband and wife. Lauren Ambrose has a small but significant role as a Manhattan hipster who dips a toe into their milieu before turning tail.

When the film ended, I felt as though I had lost new friends. I can't think of the last time that happened at the movies.


Diggers *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Katherine Dieckmann, written by Ken Marino, distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 29 mins.

Hunt. . . Paul Rudd

Gina. . . Maura Tierney

Zoey. . . Lauren Ambrose

Julie. . . Sarah Paulson

Parent's guide: R (sex, profanity, drug use, violence)

Playing at: The Ritz East


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@philly

news.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/.

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