If you found out that the guy you just started …
Digging for Fire comes perilously close to having something interesting to say about relationships and lurking curiosities. Unfortunately, it lacks the narrative focus and observational humor to be more than a mild diversion. It’s the kind of film where the secondary characters exist only to further the plot, while the main characters always say exactly what’s on their mind. It’s not a bad movie, exactly, but it never quite reaches the emotional heights that it’s reaching for.
Better Living Through Chemistry flirts with danger from its opening moments, in which a narrator first says that while each of us can’t help everyone, everyone can help someone, and follows it up by saying that our lead character would dismiss that sentiment as fortune-cookie foolishness. That character, portrayed by Sam Rockwell, who grows more Sam Rockwell-esque by the minute here, would be right to do so, but the film he occupies essentially embraces that sentiment, if to a slightly amoral extent. Better Living Through Chemistry is, seemingly, a bit desperate to both occupy the same satiric subgenre as American Beauty and to be so emphatically unique among other American Beauty-esque films that it’s unable to fully achieve either goal in the end.
Sam Rockwell’s secret weapon is not his gift of gab, but his ability to use that chatty nature to disarm everyone around him. Rockwell, so rakish and charming in this summer’s indie hit The Way, Way Back, isn’t the kind of actor who can’t play taciturn, but deliberately robbing him of his quirky, squirrelly speech patterns is always a bit of a letdown.